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Monthly Archives: May 2015
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2015 05 31 Newsletter – On Board Electrics For Continuous Cruisers

The Grand Union Leicester Line is a wonderful canal if you want quiet and peaceful moorings. Our mooring a mile north of Yelvertoft close to bridge 24 was possibly the quietest we’ve ever experienced. Although a steady stream of boats passed us over the two days we stayed there, only one person walked past on the overgrown towpath. The location was perfect for us to recover from the crowds and claustrophobia of two days at Crick.

Our spot was the perfect retreat, but not particularly useful if returning to civilisation was required. I had agreed to meet new live aboard boat owner Brent Smith, jet lagged after a flight from Australia two days earlier, and show lagged after a couple of days at Crick. The closest suitable meeting place was the Knightly Arms in Yelvertoft, a mile and a half walk back along the towpath then over a single track gated road into the village.

After a few pleasant pints and plenty of boaty chat, much of it about the workings of my new composting toilet, Brent kindly gave me a lift back from the village along the gated road to the canal before heading off to his nearby B & B and then to his new floating home the following day.

I ambled back along the dusk dark grassy towpath to where the boat rested under a canopy of gently waving hawthorn. Sally is still nervous on the boat on her own, especially on remote rural moorings so I had to knock on the door in the right sequence, give the correct answer to her security question, then cross her palm with silver before I could get in.

Tuesday was a busy day for both of us. First of all, we had to tackle the toilet and the final hurdle which stood between us and a more independent off grid lifestyle. The solids tank needed emptying.

This was the last of the three mental barriers we had to overcome. Firstly, we had to overcome our composting toilet preconceptions. Sally didn’t know anything about them but I was aware that they were a not terribly effective or pleasant alternative to either pump out or cassette toilets.

Much of what I had learned was based on articles and blogs I had read about models which mixed but solids and liquids. As far as I could ascertain, they were both bulky and ineffective. Owner intervention was often required to get them to work properly or at all.

All composting toilets are not equal though, and I couldn’t find a bad word either written or said about the Airhead model which was supposedly easy to operate and almost completely odour free.

Hurdle number two was actually forcing ourselves to use one after, for me, half a decade of refusing to use one for anything other than liquids. The reality was that the Airhead is both easy to use and mess free.

The third and final hurdle was overcoming our squeamishness at having to take out what we put in. Daily emptying of the liquids bottle isn’t a problem at all. We’ve been used to doing that with our cassette. Empting the liquids bottle is even easier than a cassette though. It’s lighter because there is less liquid to cart about – just over a day’s use for both of us – but the container is also almost completely odour free, especially now that we add the suggested spoonful or two of sugar to the container after it’s been emptied.

The routine we didn’t look forward to was emptying the solids container. If you’ve ever stood close to a boat when the pump out toilet holding tank is emptied, or ever had the dubious pleasure of standing inches away from a hand held toilet cassette while up to twenty litres of foul smelling lumpy water spews into a fetid open drain, you’ll understand why we weren’t looking forward to the prospect of scooping out a bucket full of mixed faeces and toilet paper.

As with most worries in life, the anticipation was far worse than the event. In fact, in this case, the event was very much a non-event.

Technically, legally in fact, we should have asked the landowner’s permission to bury a bucket full of solids. I have to confess that we didn’t. We didn’t have the first idea who to ask. The lightly wooded area just off the towpath probably belonged to CRT but I wouldn’t know who to contact there in order to make the request.

We didn’t ask permission, but we were very careful. I dug a six inch deep, two feet square hole, then rather nervously looked over Sally’s shoulder as she removed the bucket lid. What an anti-climax!

The liquid and solid separation reduces the amount of liquid in the solids tank in the first place, then the constantly running fan eliminates the rest. The bulk of the bucket’s contents was much reduced and largely odourless toilet tissue. The rest, and there wasn’t much of it, was little more than soil, even after just a week’s use.

After what seemed like an eternity Sally had the cleaned solids bucket back under the toilet. She told me that she could have done the job much quicker with a bigger scoop than the one I gave her. Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. What do you think?

Sally complained that the poo scoop I gave her wasn't big enough

Sally complained that the poo scoop I gave her wasn’t big enough

While Sally was busy putting the toilet back together, I neatly covered what little waste had come out of the tank. There were no chemicals to poison the soil and no unsightly evidence to mar the landscape.

I think, I hope, that now composting toilets actually work, and now models like the Airhead are compact enough to fit in the smallest narrowboat spaces, more and more boat owners will consider this more environmentally friendly and far less smelly alternative to both cassette and pump out toilets.

With our day’s toilet duties out of the way we focussed on some long overdue boat maintenance.

The first job, one which we should have completed before mooring at the busiest spot of the best attended inland waterways boat show of the year, was to remove part of the clearly displayed adhesive graphic containing the boat’s index number.

The graphic has the index number, 62241, in large white numbers to the right of the CRT swan logo over the lettering “Canal & River Trust”. Suspiciously, the “C” and the “&” had either fallen off or, more likely, been removed by a half-witted passer-by. We spent two days on our extortionately priced mooring next to a towpath used by hundreds of show visitors proudly displaying a licence obtained from the “anal river trust”. Fortunately, no one commented on it.

Next, Sally lightly sanded the chipped and scraped paintwork on the rear hatch surround, the step down into the engine room and the front deck before giving all the prepared surfaces a fresh coat of Toplac Mauritius Blue. While Sally was busy beautifying the cabin I tried to undo some of the damage I did on the roof when I painted the boat three years ago.

Painting the cabin was a laborious process. By the time I started on the roof the novelty had well and truly worn off. I just wanted to finish the job, leave the hot and fume filled paint tent and get on with some paid work. I started to cut corners.

In a moment of carelessness, I inadvertently ran a brush full of cream gloss over the brass base of one of the roof’s four mushroom vents. Rather than clean the wet paint off I just covered the rest of the base, and then painted the other three bases so they matched. They’ve always looked a bit of a mess so their return to brassy brightness was long overdue.

With the aid of a sharp scraper, several sheets of sandpaper, half a tin of Brasso and four hours hard labour, the mushroom vents looked good as new.

The following day, after forty eight hours of welcome solitude, we headed north towards Foxton. The Leicester Line summit pound is twenty miles of tranquility, rarely spoiled by the intrusive roar of roads or railways or the drone of aircraft overhead.

The canal twisted through the agricultural landscape, often beneath a canopy of ash, field maple and hawthorn. Cream coloured hawthorn blossom swirled around the boat and formed a thin carpet over the still water.

I usually leave my 12” high stainless steel chimney upright over its collar when we’re cruising but whenever we cruise along narrow stretches of canal with low hanging foliage, or through tunnels where I’m likely to have to squeeze past passing boats moving the boat and, more importantly, the chimney dangerously close to the tunnel wall, I take the chimney down and store it in the well deck.

The shallow summit pound meant that James, with a draught of two feet six inches, was often dragging his bottom through the canal bottom’s silt. The faster a boat goes, the more its stern digs into the water so the only solution was to ease back on the Morse control, relax and enjoy the scenery.

We turned on to the Welford Arm for the half hour cruise to the water point in Welford. There’s also an Elsan point for those unfortunate enough to have to use one. With our recently adopted regime of emptying the Airhead’s liquid tank every morning, we were able to smile and pass it by.

With the water tank full we turned in the tight winding hole next to the water point, made tighter still by a freshly painted boat moored in the winding hole next to a wet dock on the offside, then pulled over on the nearby visitor moorings before walking half a mile to the village shop to stock up with essentials.

On the way back we sat for half an hour in Welford’s peaceful Pocket Park to eat a shop bought lunch of corned beef and pickle baps washed down with bottles of mineral water.

We left the Welford Arm, turned right towards Foxton, negotiated the fender damaging close confines of Husbands Bosworth tunnel (see below) then pulled over close to bridge 51 with a stunning view of Kicklewell Spinney opposite nestling on the slopes of the Laughton Hills.

 

The view of Kicklewood Spinney from our mooring

The view of Kicklewood Spinney from our mooring

And that, apart from a two hour cruise to Foxton to fill our water tank, is where we stayed until today.

It’s the perfect spot to moor if you want to get away from it all. In four days just three dog walkers have passed us. There’s another boat two hundred metres away but it’s hidden behind a bend so out of sight is out of mind. We’ve seen the elderly reclusive owner twice a day when he’s taken his equally elderly collie for a run on the hillside opposite.

The hill up to Kicklewell Spinney is perfect for exercising two hyperactive spaniels… if we can reach it without mishap.

Yesterday, as usual, we crossed the bridge using a footpath through waist high grass over bridge 51 before stopping at a stile over a barbed wire fence where the footpath crosses a usually empty field to another stile and then onto the hill next to the spinney.

The field on this occasion had a single and rather unhappy looking cow standing on the footpath facing us two hundred metres away. We could see a herd of thirty cows in the adjacent field. As we stood and watched, the lonely cow walked to the fence close to the herd, tried to jump the barbed wire strands, failed, turned round, then returned to the field centre.

Because I used to be a boy scout, and because my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and perhaps because I’m not very bright, I thought I would do the right thing by trying to guide the cow towards a nearby gate leading back into the right field.

Knowing that dogs sometimes anger normally placid cows, I left Sally, Charlie and Daisy behind the safety of the stile, climbed over, then walked towards the cow waving my arms and making my best John Wayne cattle herding noises.

I was about fifty metres from the cow before noticing that, rather than bulging udders nestling between its back legs, it displayed a rather impressive pair of testicles. A few hesitant steps further forward, I noticed that the “cow” had lowered its head and was looking at me rather menacingly.

I used to run competitively but it’s been thirty years since I’ve done any serious training. I wish I had a stopwatch with me though. I think the hundred metre dash back to Sally and the dogs was a personal best.

The dogs had to make do with a trot along the towpath for the rest of the day. Sally’s been back to the hill this morning. When she came back she told me disdainfully that I can now safely leave the boat.

On Board Electrics For Continuous Cruisers

Let me start by admitting that electricity in general and electrical systems on boats completely baffle me. However I know what I need to know to ensure that I have plenty of the precious stuff for weeks or months at a time when I’m disconnected from the national grid. I thought a description of my system and the way we use it might be useful to you.

If you want to gain a good basic knowledge of narrowboat electrical systems, there are two excellent articles already on this site. Both were written by Tim Davis, owner of Onboard Solar, the inland waterway network’s most prolific solar panel system installer. I’ve linked to is articles and to other useful resources at the end of this section.

Let me explain first what we use on board and how often we use it. Then I’ll tell you how many batteries we have on board to store the electricity we generate and how we recharge them.

Charger, MPPT controller and inverter

Charger, MPPT controller and inverter

I think we probably use more power than many boat owners but we have a robust system in place so we’re happy with what we use.

As with all narrowboats, our essential on board electrics are 12v. Essential electrics include all internal and external lights, the water, shower and bilge pumps and, the biggest continuous draw on board, our 12v Shoreline fridge.

Our fridge is on twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Some boaters only have their fridge running when they’re cruising, some use them only during the summer months, and some don’t use a fridge at all. We don’t live afloat in order to make our lives as difficult or as miserable as possible so we make sure that life on board is as comfortable as we can make it. A basic requirement for us is having a constantly working fridge.

Another constant draw is my laptop. It’s on every day of the week from 5am to 9pm. Sally also has a laptop which is on for two to three hours each day. We have a 230v television, usually running for three hours a day. The only other appliance we use regularly on the boat is my Magimix Citz Nespresso coffee machine. The coffee pods are expensive and the 1,710w machine is, in theory, too powerful to run through the boat’s inverter, but it makes wonderful cappuccinos and seems to work OK though the inverter. I used to have half a dozen a day when I was working when we were plugged in to the national grid, but now I’m a poor itinerant boat owner, one a day is the limit.

At this time of the year, we don’t have the boat’s cabin lights on at all but all of the lights have now been changed to LEDs so they draw very little power.

We have twelve 230v double sockets inside the boat. There’s often a phone or two, Kindles and camera and torch batteries plugged in to charge during the day.

All of the boat’s 12v electrical items are powered directly from the DC charge stored in the batteries. All 230v devices and appliances need AC so have to be powered through the boat’s 1600w inverter. The inverter draws power itself. Ours is on from 5am to 9pm.

The electricity needed to power everything on the boat is stored in the leisure bank of batteries. There are four 160ah AGM batteries in this bank plus a separate 110ah battery reserved exclusively to start the boat’s engine.

Before the battery bank charge depletes to a level at which the batteries will suffer damage, they need to be charged to top them up.

My boat has two different ways of doing this. The method which all narrowboats use is via the engine’s alternator. My Mercedes has a single 90amp alternator.

When I first ventured out of the marina on my boat I didn’t have a clue when or for how long to charge my batteries. Purely as a result of guesswork I used to run the engine for a couple of hours a day if I wasn’t cruising. I knew I hadn’t run the engine for long enough if the batteries ran down to such a low level that the 12v lights or pumps would fail.

My on board power management regime improved enormously when I had a Smartgauge battery monitor fitted. The digital display on the bedroom side of the bulkhead between the bedroom and engine room shows me at a glance what charge remains in the battery bank. I check the display half a dozen times a day. If the remaining capacity drops too low, I run the engine.

Although the battery monitor told me the state of charge when I had it fitted, I couldn’t understand why I was running the engine sometimes for four or five hours in order to get the batteries anywhere near the maximum capacity.

I asked Dave Renolds, Calcutt Boats’ resident marine electrician to identify the problem.

He increased the size of the cable carrying the charge from the alternator to the batteries, rerouted it so that the cable didn’t circle the engine bay a couple of times before reaching the batteries, and also removed three or four unnecessary joins. Finally, he tested everything to see how much of a charge my 90amp alternator was producing. Here are the results;

Engine       Battery        Alternator

Revs            Voltage       Amps

500                13.6            2

700                13.1            20

1000              13.1            31

1200              13.0            42

1400             12.9             52 

1500             12.9            57

 

Alternator control voltage 14.3V

wiring voltage drop 280mA @ 58A

 

Even with the improvements he made, at idle, on my engine idle is 500rpm, the alternator produces just 2amps. Given that my fridge draws more power than that I was running the engine for no benefit at all. At the other end of the scale 1500rpm, my normal cruising speed, produces 57amps.

If I want to charge my batteries now when I’m moored I always make sure that my engine is running at 1500 rpm. This is rarely an issue but it caused me some difficulty at Crick when I was moored nose to tail with other boats. My engine is quite smoky so the owner of the boat behind me complained that I was filling his boat with fumes. I had to stop the engine. Fortunately we weren’t moored there for long enough to cause a problem,

Thankfully, the alternator isn’t the only string to my battery charging bow. I also have a 300w solar array fitted by Tim Davis of Onboard Solar two years ago. The three 100w solar panels plus an MPPT controller work their magic all year round tirelessly harvesting free electricity. They allow me to stay on pleasant moorings for days at a time with little assistance from the engine to keep the batteries topped up. In fact, I often only have to run the engine for long enough to produce hot enough hot water for a couple of quick showers and a bowl full of water for the dishes.

We’ve been off grid now for two months. The lowest the leisure bank’s capacity has fallen in that time was this afternoon when it dropped to 92% after a day moored against a tree shaded towpath in continuous heavy rain. The solar panels are very good, but they aren’t miracle workers. They had a day off.

There you are. This is a far from technical guide to narrowboat electrics but maybe now that you know more about our electrical usage, storage capacity and charging regime, you’ll have more of an idea what you need when the time comes to buy or upgrade your own boat.

Useful Resources

Waterways World electrical audit – Calculate how much power you will need on your own boat.

Narrowboat Electrics – Batteries

Narrowboat Electrics – Generators and Inverters

Narrowboat Electrics – Solar Power

The Downside of Over Plating Your Boat

I had a little accident on Wednesday. It was just one of those things which happen all the time when you’re cruising, but which happen more often if, like me, you have an over plated cabin.

In November 2011 I had a new steel cabin fitted over the top of the original leaking and partially rotten wooden top. I wanted to keep the cabin’s beautiful internal Parana pine cladding, so over plating was the best option if I wanted to weatherproof the cabin without disturbing the inside too much.

The over plating was very successful, but there have been a few drawbacks.

  1. I now effectively have two cabins, one on top of the other. After the new steel was fitted I had to have the windows, which had been removed prior to the boat being taken away to have the steel work done, refitted in the new steel. Once the windows were fitted, I then needed to bridge the gap between the original cabin window frames and the windows in their new steel frames. A two inch hardwood frame was built around each window to hide the gap.The new frames look neat and tidy but they prevent my hopper windows from opening. We now can’t have any windows open at all.We’re considering replacing all of the windows. They are thirty eight years old and very draughty. However, because of the potential additional fitting and remedial work caused by the internal frames installed three years ago, I think the cost might be prohibitive.
  2. The new steel, weighing somewhere between one and a half and two tonnes, has unbalanced the boat. The centre of gravity is now much higher than it should be so the boat rocks much more than it used to when walking along the gunwale.
  3. The new cabin has reduced the width of the gunwale by 50%. The original 5” wide “path” around the outside of the boat was quite easy to walk along and useful to use to get from one end of the boat to the other without having to go through the cabin. Now, the gunwale is half the width, I have to make sure that I grip the cabin’s top rail firmly with both hands to prevent an unwanted bath.
  4. Because the cabin now extends a couple of inches closer to the gunwale’s outside edge, the cabin is more at risk of catching solid objects when squeezing through tunnels with uneven walls.On Tuesday as I was making my way through Husband Bosworth’s 1,170 yard tunnel I had to pull over to squeeze past an approaching boat. Although I always slow down to tick over whenever passing a boat in such a tight space, the boat was still moving enough to snap my starboard rear fender hanger as it caught a protruding brick. An extra couple of inches would have saved the day. It’s the story of my life.
  5. Because of the additional weight, the boat now has a slightly deeper draught than before. I don’t know how much exactly, but I think the hull is now sitting two inches further in the water. I’ve been able to rectify the problem slightly at the rear of the boat by removing over two hundred pounds of ballast bars from the engine room bilge but there’s not much I can do about the ballast in the cabin bilge.
  6. The additional layer over the cabin means that if I have any work done necessitating cutting through the roof, the work generally takes longer so is more expensive.

On the whole I am delighted with the over plating. The boat now looks much younger than thirty eight and I’m now much warmer and dryer than I was when I moved on board in 2010. However, none of the problems caused by the additional steel occurred to me when I thought of having it done. If you are considering doing something similar to your own boat, you’re now a step ahead of me.

 

 

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees Steve and Kathy Hammond…

“Paul provided all the information we needed – what to bring, how to find the marina etc. I would emphasise the need for waterproofs – if it is raining there is no escape!

We are considering whether a narrowboat would be right for us as a holiday/touring base in a couple of years and Paul helped us with just about everything we needed to know in making our decision – selecting, purchasing, maintaining, costs, regulations, driving, etiquette and much more. Having never been on a narrowboat before we started the day with some trepidation; we both ended the day driving his 62’ boat in with reasonable skill and confidence whilst tackling strong winds, locks, tight bends, and a fair amount of traffic in some places. This says much about Paul’s calm instruction and willingness to help, especially when the inevitable mistakes happened.

A great day; as well as learning lots it really brought home to us the main reason for buying a boat – either to live on or escape to – being able to put away the stresses of daily life and travel and stay in beautiful, peaceful countryside where relaxation is pretty much compulsory.

We would definitely recommend an instruction day with Paul to anyone thinking of owning a narrowboat, whether for leisure or as a home. Anyone thinking of buying a boat should take one of his courses – you will learn so much and could avoid making a costly mistake.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

24th May 2015

Upgrading an elderly narrowboat – If you’re thinking of buying an older boat, this comprehensive list of what I’ve done to my thirty eight year old floating home may give you some ideas.

17th May 2015

Composting toilets – The eco friendly method of disposing of your on board waste is now becoming a viable alternative to cassette and pump out toilets

10th May 2015

Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring

3rd May 2015

Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.

30th November 2014

Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.

23rd November 2014

London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.

2nd November 2014

Narrowboat CO2 emissions  – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.

26th October 2014

Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.

19th October 2014

Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.

12th October 2014

The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?

5th October 2014

I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.

28th September 2014

Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.

7th September 2014

Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment

2015 05 24 Newsletter – Upgrading An Elderly Narrowboat

I’m afraid I haven’t written much at all about my travels over the last week. I started writing about the improvements I’ve made to my boat since I moved on board half a decade ago. Time waits for no man. I am certainly no exception. I’ve run out of time again to write anything else, so I hope you’re happy with my lengthy digital scribbling about the refurbishment of James No 194. Before I begin that section though, I thought you would like to know how I’m getting on with my loo.

Composing Toilets

Last week I mentioned that we were about to take the plunge and invest just over £1,000 in a compost toilet. On Thursday we set off from our Flecknoe mooring at 6am hoping to reach Hillmorton Wharf for nine. We did, just.

Before you read any more, I need to make you aware that I’m going to explain quite graphically about our experiences with the new loo, so please skip this section if composting toilets don’t interest you or if detailed descriptions of boaters’ bowel movements has you reaching for a paper bag.

The toilets are normally fitted by business owner Richard but recent composting toilet sales have been brisk so new guy Mark’s first day working for Richard was spent in our tiny walk through bathroom.

“Fitting an Airhead is simple, “Richard told me last week when we popped in to see him. “All you have to do is screw the brackets for the solids bin to your bathroom floor and drill through your roof or the cabin side then fit a small 12v fan then connect it to your boat’s electrics.”

I started to glaze over when he mentioned fitting the tank brackets. There was no chance at all of me doing the rest of it right so I was very happy to book myself in with Mark for the expected four hour installation. I was extremely pleased I did.

Of course the fitting wasn’t as easy as they thought. They had to cut a hole through my bathroom roof cladding, then through the boat’s original wooden top and finally through the steel roof I had fitted over the wooden one in 2011. Mark hit one of the steel roof support struts on the way through so, after a brief chat with Richard, fitted a dog’s leg into the extraction hose.

The four hour job took eight hours but both Sally and I were more than happy to spend a few extra hours tied up to the wharf. Mark’s work was both thorough and neat.

We left Hillmorton Wharf at 5pm, cruised for an hour to a quiet mooring with expansive views a mile outside Braunston then moored for the night, delighted that we no longer need to consider how far away we were from the nearest public loo.

I know that must sound pathetic to you knowing that I’ve been living afloat for half a decade, but I was never happy with the cassette toilet so using public facilities has become an ingrained habit.

Anyway, I’m determined that the substantial investment is going to work but I’ve had to change the way I approach our new toilet. Literally.

The Airhead composting toilet only works effectively if liquids and solids are stored separately. A common cause of solid tank contamination is men standing to wee, not aiming in the right direction, then sending jets of urine into the solids tank.

The only solution is to follow the ladies’ lead and sit to wee. The sight of me walking toward the toilet unbuttoning my trousers just to have a quick pee amuses Sally no end. She’s easily pleased.

Making the first solid contribution to our new independent lifestyle took a while. We were both hesitant to use the new waterless toilet but we entered into the spirit of things the following day with a little unplanned teamwork.

Sally sometimes steers our boat, often for an hour or more at a time. She’s very good at the helm but not very confident. Consequently, she usually wants me close at hand in case we unexpectedly meet another boat or a situation where she isn’t really sure what to do.

On Friday we pulled away from our mooring at 6am to cruise to the bottom of the Napton flight to our storage container so that we could remove our now redundant Porta Potti. From there we had ten hours cruising to the three day zone 1 mooring I booked for the Crick Boat Show six months ago.

Sally took over from me after an hour so that I could christen the loo.

I approached the procedure with some trepidation. Everything is so much easier and cleaner in a bricks and mortar loo. You make your deposit into a liquid filled bowl then flush it away with gallons of water. Even a boat’s dump through or cassette toilet has a chemical or eco-friendly slurry beneath you to help mask the inevitable unpleasant odours.

The Airhead toilet bowl has a watertight flap at the bottom and a hole towards the front of the bowl which directs wee into the liquids bottle. You wee first, then open the bottom flap with a lever on the side of the toilet, strain and hopefully drop your solids neatly through the open flap into the tank beneath.

If you aren’t sure of your aim, there’s a pack of extra-large coffee filters provided with the toilet. You leave the flap closed, place a coffee filter in the bottom of the pan, drop your solids into the paper cup, then depress the lever to drop paper and solids into the tank. The whole process feels very strange after a lifetime of conventional toilet use.

With Sally at the helm, I was contemplating the meaning of life while I waited for what normally would have happened pretty quickly when Sally helped me along. The steady engine throb changed to a mighty roar as she thrust the Morse control backwards when she saw the bow of an oncoming boat appear suddenly through a bridge hole, then there was a bump and a scrape as our bow hit the concrete clad towpath.

Spurred on by the sudden excitement I quickly finished the task in hand before dashing to the back of the boat to make sure both Sally and the boat were OK.

The toilet design is amazingly effective. Using the coffee filter, there was no mess at all. The was a slightly unpleasant smell in the bathroom for an hour after the toilet’s first use for solids but today after half a dozen uses there’s no smell at all.

The toilet’s 12v extractor fan runs twenty four hours a day, constantly removing moisture from the solids tank. Because the fan is drawing both moisture and odour from the tank, I have discovered that standing at the helm when the boat is in the close confines of a tunnel is not the most pleasant place in the world to be when a solid deposit is made. I don’t think I’ll ever think fondly of Crick tunnel again.

We’ve only been using the new loo for four days but, so far, we’re delighted with the way it works. I had a little mishap this morning but it was all part of the learning curve. We were told that the liquids tank needs to be emptied roughly every two days. We emptied it on Saturday so were expecting to empty it again later today.

I woke this morning at 5am, sat down in my new girly way for a pre coffee wee, then felt an unfamiliar warmth under my bare feet. The liquids bottle doesn’t hold as much as I thought. After clearing up a set of yellow footprints created with my own urine, I quickly emptied the overflowing bottle in a nearby hedge (Remember, this method of disposal is EA approved). It’s a much easier way of getting rid of your waste than trying to find an Elsan point at Crick.

The real test now that we’ve established that putting stuff in it isn’t at all unpleasant will be to see how we get on with removing what we’ve added to it. I’ll let you know how I get on with that when the time comes.

We’re having a good experience with our first composting toilet, but we’re not alone. After writing about the Airhead toilet last week, I received the following emails from other happy composting toilet users.

EMAIL 1 – JOHN ANDREWS

Hi Paul,

Glad to see you are going composting!

I bought one last summer. I got the much cheaper but very similar ‘http://natureshead.net’ Natures Head from a UK stockist Black Bear Leisure.

Here are my experiences with this composting head:

There is just me on board, and then just for 4 nights (average) a week. It works very well – I have only emptied its solids tank twice since September and I do not use pub or other public toilets. It is amazing how much the physical size of the compost heap reduces by over a weekend while the loo is not being used. In my experience at the point where the tank seemed to be getting full, it is very noticeable that recent supplies into the tank still retain there as contributed appearance! I’d hesitate to put them in general household / CRT waste until fully composted. As the solids had not all composted right down I am keeping them in a compost bin to finish them off.

With two of you full time I think that you will definitely need to set up a compost bin somewhere where you can empty the solids into to finish off – or of course, bury them. The solids tank contents with well over twice the demand you two full time on board will put it to, will not compost fast enough to keep up. I’d love to hear your friends’ views on this – does theirs keep up with their lifestyle? Maybe, I am not using the right compost to get things going fast enough?

The main thing I have experienced is that the composting process needs 15 Deg C or more to keep going so during the winter, with my boat empty for 50% of the time, the composting was not happening fast enough – the tank got damp and smelly then. I do not yet know how I will deal with that next winter. Since it has warmed up the composting process is fine.

You will need an external air vent for the 12V fan to pump out to – and you will notice that the air coming out smells of compost. Not unpleasant – a bit musty – not at all ‘cessy’ if I can put it like that. Anyhow – as you must have numerous roof vents on a narrowboat for air safety reasons, you will find the exhaust air does get back in if the wind is blowing direct from your exit vent towards an open roof vent. I’m thinking about how to add a chimney to the top of my outlet to get the air up and away.

I am using a solar roof vent to exhaust the air which runs 24/7 since late spring. In the winter I also ran a 12V fan (supplied with the loo) from the boat supply as overnight the solar vent would stop on flat batteries.

Overall – much less smelly and much less unpleasant to deal with than my previous Elsan chemical toilet. Glad I switched!!

EMAIL 1 ENDS

EMAIL 2 – STEVE FREEAR

We have had our airhead composting toilet for 8 months now and find it really good and it saves you even more water. Please be aware though that the cocoa shells used in the solids tank are now becoming very hard to get hold of. The problem is when used as a mulch on the garden, if dogs eat it, the mulch can poison them. John Innes was the normal brand and you could get it at garden centres but I tried 6 around us and none sold it any more.

Canalshop also ran out but now has it in stock but I don’t know where he sources it and only sells it in small bags, rather than the 75 litre bags that you could buy for about £12.

We got what we thought was cocoa husks from Amazon but it’s actually the fibres and looks more like a compost. We have found it works OK though.

I also did a review on my blog of the airhead

EMAIL 2 ENDS

EMAIL 3 – MARILYN MCDONALD

We too have ordered a composting loo and are picking it up from Richard and Susanne on our way to the boat (Barby Moorings) tomorrow hopefully. I see I will have to follow your example and get a folding spade and some tea tree oil so I’m ready for cleaning action …

With luck we will be able to catch up in person – that would be lovely and I will get some Aussie red in the shopping so I am prepared.

You may like to read or refer people to Jaq and Les Biggs’ post about the Airhead on the nb Valerie blog – It was reading that, meeting them last year and seeing their toilet that convinced us it was the way to go. We have a drop through currently, and our process is the reverse of yours – we don’t use it for peeing as that fills the tank too quickly, and we do use to for solids. Our Cost Benefit Analysis won’t bring such a speedy return on investment as yours will with the cost of coffee, beer and cakes on the debit side – ours was based on the cost of pump outs over the five months we are on the boat. So our payback period is about 4 years. Still we thought it was worth it.

I was also interested in your water saving and timing of usage techniques – we too shower while filling with water and do washing on the way to the water point. When rinsing dishes we put the plug in the sink instead of letting that water rinse just one thing. I remember reading on the forum a post by Peter Earley in which he said that they capture the water that runs while waiting for the hot water to come through, and get a bucket or so for odd jobs throughout the day. That will take a bit more discipline for us but if we got a couple of jugs that we could slip under the taps I am sure we would get into the habit. I’d quite like to do it so I could have a bucket of ‘free’ water to wash my Tiva sandals in each evening – they do get smelly – and it would be good to have it for random bits of external boat washing or filling the kettle …

FEEDBACK 3 ENDS MARILYN MCDONALD

 Refurbishing A Thirty Eight Year Old Narrowboat

Because I’ve written extensively about my experience on board a boat needing fair amount of TLC, I’ve received a few emails over the years asking for advice about refurbishing an old boat. I don’t have any practical skills at all so none of the refurbishment has been done by me. Because of that, I can’t offer any practical advice. However, I’m not bad at project management and, thanks to the team of very knowledgeable staff at Calcutt Boats, I’ve been able to determine the best way to equip my own boat for very comfortable living for long periods off grid.

I spent the first five years of my on board life on a marina mooring, so being able to function off grid wasn’t an issue, but I knew that, eventually, I wanted to spend weeks or months at a time exploring the network.

That dream has now become reality. We’ve been off grid now for seven weeks. I’m delighted that the boat has performed as well in practice as I thought it would in theory.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve done to the boat and how much the improvements have cost me. I know these improvements are particular to my own boat but my account may help you if you’re considering upgrading your own craft.

I moved on board James No 194 on 2nd April 2010. I had been working part time at Calcutt Boats part time for six months after the collapse of my business and subsequent bankruptcy, then the collapse of my marriage and subsequent emotional bankruptcy.

I moved on to the then thirty three year old boat because I needed somewhere cheap to live. The lifestyle wasn’t a consideration. I had no experience of boats and no interest in living on one. The old and leaking boat simply offered me a more attractive but less comfortable alternative to my unhappy family home.

The boat was far from palatial. After thirteen unused and unloved years on an exposed marina mooring the once lovely boat had seen far better days. Thick rust flakes covered both gunnels, paint hung in ribbons from the boat’s windward port side, the tattered cratch cover was covered in algae and moss, water poured in to the cabin from a dozen leaks in the perished wooden roof and the engine bilge had filled and overflowed on to the bedroom floor.

Thick cobwebs covered every window, door frame and hatch, the mattress on the back cabin’s double bed was water stained and the seat upholstery in the saloon and dining area was mildewed, as were the dirty curtains covering the boat’s ten windows. An old and reliable gas heater provided hot water for the tiny bathroom with its equally tiny bath. There was an empty space for a toilet but no toilet on board.

The solid fuel stove had a cracked flue and broken glass so couldn’t be used, the starter battery and single 110ah lead acid battery in the leisure bank were both dead so wouldn’t hold a charge and there was no shore line to connect the boat to the marina mains supply. The engine’s perished hoses prevented it from being used to generate any on board power.

Not that I particularly wanted to start the engine. The insulated coffin like box covering the engine had fallen apart so had to be removed which then exposed the helmsman and any guests to the considerable engine noise and clouds of billowing smoke.

At first, life on board was far from comfortable. Every time I heard rain drumming on the thin wooden roof I reached into the galley cupboard for my small collection of pans ready to catch the soon expected drips through the ceiling’s pine cladding. Wind whistled through gaps in the hopper windows, through gaps in two warped centre hatches, through an equally decayed rear hatch and ill-fitting front, side and rear doors. The boat was cold and very draughty.

The owner Roger Preen, Calcutt Boats’ founder, asked his fitters to make the boat habitable. They had to replace the stove flue and glass, replace the tiny bath with a shower cubicle and install a charger so the two batteries could be charged via the shore supply. An old Porta Potti toilet was found for me to use until I could find something better.

An industrial dehumidifier was wedged into the back cabin to help remove years of accumulated damp. I needed to run it for twelve hours a day to fight the damp.

Within a week I could use the stove, keep myself clean, use an on board toilet and walk through the boat to my bedroom in the rear cabin without getting my feet wet.

Despite the boat’s sorry state, my first six months on board were a delight. With my basic needs satisfied I did very little to the boat for the first year other than relax and begin to recover from a very stressful few years.

Coming “home” from work was a joy. With no television on board I spent all my free time reading. I finished work at 5.30pm. Two minutes later I was back at the boat after a pleasant commute along the flower covered marina embankment. I would sit for hours on the comfortable wooden bench seat on my front deck with a good book, a bowl of olives and a glass or two of Australian red. It was heaven.

The summer passed, then autumn, quickly followed by the coldest winter on record. For six weeks the marina was covered by four inches of ice. One night the thermometer dropped to a decidedly chilly minus eighteen. The temperature in my bedroom was often below freezing. A quarter of an inch of frost on the internal engine room cladding just feet from my sleeping head wasn’t unusual. I spent more than one evening sitting as close as possible to my fire wearing two fleece tops, a fleece hat and gloves.

The following spring I met Sally. The basic and often rather uncomfortable lifestyle was bearable for me but I didn’t want her to suffer if, as seemed increasingly likely, she was going to move on board with me.

I didn’t want either of us to have to endure another desperately cold winter on board with rainwater pouring through the roof. The only sensible solution was to have the original wooden cabin completely over plated with steel.

In November 2011 I kick started the boat’s refurbishment by paying £1,100 to have the boat shipped eight miles by road to have the steelwork done. The price included the hire of the crane needed to offload the boat at Reeves boatyard in Bishops Itchington then loaded back onto the lorry to bring it back.

The cost of the new cabin was a very reasonable £6,500. The work included the cabin sides, roof, front and rear bulkheads, a pair of doors at the front, another pair at the back and two more either side half way down the boat, plus hatches above both pairs of side doors and the rear doors, a refurbished pigeon box, a reinforced half roof ring for my centre lines and brackets for poles and planks.

Before the new steel was added, I asked Reeves to fix additional polystyrene insulation over the original cabin. In hindsight, I think this was a mistake. I should have had the old cabin covered in a layer of far more effective spray foam insulation.

The boat came back to Calcutt after ten days away. The first job was to protect the bare steel with a couple of coats of primer for the winter before my planned repaint the following spring, then the boat had to be put back together.

Before the steel was fitted, all windows and external fitting had to be removed including the chimney collar, roof vents, the pigeon box and all the wiring to the three gauges in it and the navigation lights.

Once the windows were refitted in the new steel, a hardwood frame had to be made for each window to bridge the gap between the old and new cabins.

Back on the mooring, we spent another couple of days cleaning up the incredible amount of dust created by both steel fitting and remedial work before settling down for a warmer and dryer winter.

Next on the hit list was replacing the tatty and stained cratch cover. Most suppliers charge in excess of £1,000 for a cratch (front deck) cover. Mine cost £450 from a one man band in Coventry. Three and a half years later, it’s as good as new.

Thanks to the new watertight and better insulated cabin, and much milder weather, that winter was much more pleasant. In fact, settling down on a cold night to a good book in front of a roaring fire on a warm and dry boat on a frosty winter’s eve is a real pleasure.

Over the winter I replaced all eighteen lights on board with LEDs at a cost of about £18 each. The initial cost was high but the new lights should last longer than me and use very little power.

In April 2012 we resumed the refurbishment programme when I took three weeks off work to first black the hull then paint everything else. I saved myself a fortune by not employing someone to do the work for me.

The hull needs painting roughly every three years if you use bitumen as most boat owners do. The cost for a 62’ boat like mine is normally £500 – £600. Some boat yards allow DIY blacking but by the time you total the cost of lifting your boat in and out of the water, hiring a pressure washer, industrial wire brush, renting the slipway or dry dock to do the work and then buying paint and rollers, you don’t save very much. Fortunately, working at the marina at the time, I was able to take advantage of staff rates.

Blacking my own boat saved me a little money but painting the cabin saved me a fortune. As a rule of thumb, you can budget £100 a foot to have your boat professionally painted. In fact, I had a quote yesterday (24th May 2015) for £8,500 from top notch narrowboat painter John Barnard at the Crick Boat Show.

After John helped me to my feet after he told me the price he said. “Over eight thousand pounds to paint your boat might sound like a lot of money but doing the job properly takes a long time. First of all we take everything off your boat; all vents, solar panels, roof furniture, navigation lights and any other additions to the cabin. Then we take your windows out, take the boat back to bare metal then slowly and carefully apply ten layers of paint. The devil is in the detail.”

Of course I didn’t do as thorough a job as John, as is evident by the end result. By the time I applied my final coat at the end of the third week, I was starting to get the hang of applying a streak, drip and sag free coat. Unfortunately the final coat was applied over the top of five others which hadn’t been so well applied.

Still, people who meet me now, three years after I did the work, tell me that the boat looks pretty good. I paid just under £1,000 for paint and consumables. Then there was the cost of hiring a paint tent for three weeks at £30 a day and the income I lost by taking three weeks off work.

The boat now looked pretty good, and it was fine as a floating flat, but it wasn’t much good for getting me from A to B. I ran the engine for a few minutes a week for no other reason than to see if it was still working. Being plugged into the shore supply took care of all my electrical needs and any hot water I needed was provided by a temperamental gas water heater. I didn’t take the boat cruising because I had no faith in the old engine with its perished hoses sitting over bilge full of water.

I didn’t actually take the boat out of the marina for the first time until December 2011, twenty months after moving on board.

Sally’s two children, Maricar and Michael were visiting us for Christmas. Sally suggested taking them on a cruise to Braunston. To be honest, the thought terrified me but, not being one to back away from a challenge, I fired up the engine, crossed my fingers and set off on the nerve-wracking trip up three locks then along the twisting six mile route to Braunston.

We couldn’t stay out on the cut overnight. The single domestic battery wasn’t holding a charge so we only had lights and water pumps while the engine running, and no hot water because the engine fed calorifier didn’t appear to be working.

We popped in to The Boat House in Braunston for a lunch time drink, then headed quickly back to the boat for the return trip. The engine spluttered into life, coughed a few times, then died. I started it again half a dozen times with the same result before it struggled to life.

We managed to limp to Wolfhamcote half a mile away before the engine died for good. There was nothing I could do to sort it out so I left Michael and his mother sitting in front of the fire for a damp six miles walk back to the marina to collect the car.

The following day I returned with one of our fitters and an out of season Calcutt hire boat. We towed my boat back to the marina where fitter Russ spent several hours cleaning my solidly caked fuel filter then bleeding the fuel lines so he could start the engine.

I tried taking the boat out again a couple of weeks later. Again I had problems. The engine kept dropping out of gear. I managed to crawl back to the marina this time. The problem was easily resolved. A hose on my PRM gearbox had perished allowing the oil to escape.

To ensure that I didn’t have any further problems, I had all the perished engine and gearbox hoses replaced.

I ran out of money then so apart from a few smaller improvements such as buying a condensation preventing ventilation mat to fit under our mattress (£66), some interlocking plastic mats for the front deck (£57), and carpeting for our bedroom (£40) to replace the mouldy and threadbare beige carpet in situ when I moved on board, we saved our pennies for the next year.

In March 2013 we replaced the existing 110ah starter battery and upgraded the single 110ah battery in the leisure bank to two, and then soon after, four 135ah. We also added a 1600w pure sine inverter. That little lot cost just over £800.

A week later we had all the boat’s carpet ripped out and replaced with smart looking and easy to clean oak effect laminate flooring. Carpet just wasn’t practical with two hair shedding and muddy pawed spaniels on board. The new laminate flooring was easy to keep clean. The downside was that Charlie, the hyperactive springer spaniel, now drives us mad with his constant clickity click as he marches relentlessly up and down the boat.

Just to ensure that we emptied our savings account completely, the following day we had a 300w solar array fitted by Tim Davis of Onboard Solar. The three panels with their MPPT controller (£1,000 including fitting) have made a significant difference to life on board.

We use a fair amount of electricity. The inverter tends to run for much of the day, we relax for a couple of mindless hours each evening in front of our 240v television, my laptop is on all day, every day, and Sally and I also regularly have a range of power hungry smart phones, tablets and Kindles charging.

With the solar panels installed, after I identified one or two inefficiencies in my electrical setup generally, now if we aren’t cruising during the day, running the engine for no more than an hour is enough to bring the batteries up to full charge.

In March we also tackled our fire safety shortfalls by installing a carbon monoxide monitor, a fire blanket and three new fire extinguishers (£80) and, in case we dropped any metal objects overboard, a bijou recovery magnet.

The tiny magnet is as wide as a 2p piece and about two inches long. It’s small but it will lift 50lb. Attached to a 100m length of Paracord I keep in the engine room, I’ve used it so far to retrieve two bunches of keys, three shackles, two windlasses and a screwdriver. The owner of the boat in front of me yesterday used his to almost instantly retrieve a borrowed pair of mole grips. The £26 investment is an essential bit of boating kit.

In April we were at it again. I had a fuel pre filter installed rather than having to try to reach the fuel filter on the engine which was jammed almost inaccessibly between the front of the engine and the bulkhead between the engine room and our bedroom, and I had a steel frame installed around the engine so it could be boarded and insulated. Then I booked River Canal Rescue for a full engine service. Cost £630.

I also had some deck boards quickly fitted above the engine to allow me to climb over the engine to get to the stairs into the cabin. The engine wasn’t boarded at the side nor were any of the boards soundproofed so the engine room was more usable but still very noisy. Cost £200.

At the Crick Boat Show in May we invested £125 in a new front and a new rear fender to replace the disintegrating and embarrassing objects hanging off the boat.

I’m trawling through my records listing the major expenses but there are many smaller purchases which add significantly to the total. For example, in the first six months of 2013, I also bought gearbox oil, grease, fairleads, grippy pads to allow us to step onto the front and the back of the boat without slipping, inverter wiring, a 25m shore line, mooring chains, weed hatch tools, battery leads, spring clips and hooks for the engine room, a consumer until and switch, stove paint, paint brushes, stove glass, drill bits, fender hangers and side fenders, Carnuba wax, a coolie hat and door mats. The total for these items is £720.

In August my bilge pump stopped working so I had to buy a new one. One of our fitters, Russ Fincham, suggested a way of improving the way the bilge pump works in my engine room. Normally the pump simply sits in the bilge, the lowest point in the engine bay. Water finding its way into the bilge, in my case at the time from any one of half a dozen different directions, is sucked up by the pump and expelled via a hose into the canal. There were a number of different leaks causing the accumulation in my bilge but the main one was via the stern gland. Russ suggested placing a washing up bowl beneath the stern gland and gluing a float switch to the bowl bottom. The bowl would confine the incoming water to a small area, the float switch would trigger the pump as the water level rose in the bowl then quickly expel any excess water from the boat. The system works really well. I now know that any water in the bilge isn’t coming from the stern gland so I can then look elsewhere for the leak. Bilge pump and float switch £33.

In November I invested £369 in a secondary double glazing kit which comprised ten polycarbonate panels and enough magnetic and steel tape to secure them to the cladding around the leaky windows inside the cabin. The Irish supplier sent the white rather than brown magnetic tape, then said he couldn’t supply the brown tape I had ordered so eventually agreed to refund the full purchase price but allowed me to keep the plastic panels. I eventually managed to secure the panels with Velcro. They do a marvellous job of keeping the cabin warm by preventing wind whistling through the gaps in the old windows. They also stop condensation completely.

I kicked off the refurbishment programme in 2014 with the purchase of a Webasto central heating kit and a Surecal 55l calorifier to replace the broken one under our bed. Cost £1,500.

I wanted central heating on board to supplement our solid fuel stove. The rear of the boat has always been quiet cold. The stove is at the front of the boat. It has a gravity fed back boiler which feeds three radiators down the starboard side. By the time the hot stove water has trickled forty feet to the radiator in our bedroom it’s luke warm. I wanted to be able to heat the bedroom properly and allow us more flexibility when heating the boat during spring and autumn when we just need a quick burst of heat at either end of the day.

However, trying to find someone to fit the central heating system was a nightmare. I couldn’t get the work done at Calcutt because of politics and all the other heating engineers we contacted appeared to be too busy.

Maybe the fitting problems were a blessing in disguise. Although we still struggle to balance the stove’s output with milder spring and autumn weather, we’re managed to resolve the back cabin problems. I’ll cover the improvements we’ve made to achieve that shortly.

In March I purchased a Smartgauge battery monitor. It’s one of the smartest purchases I’ve made for the boat. Prior to its installation, charging the battery bank was purely guesswork. I knew I needed to run the engine to charge the batteries, but I didn’t know how often or for how long. I knew that the bank desperately needed charging if the boat’s 12v system failed but letting the batteries run flat didn’t do them any good at all.

Now I can press a button to check the bank’s capacity then run the engine for as long as necessary to bring them up to full charge. No more wasted fuel when running the engine to charge batteries which don’t need charging, and no more reducing the battery bank’s lifespan by allowing them to drain. Cost £155.

I’m absolutely hopeless with the simplest DIY tasks on board. In March I asked a handyman to do some jobs for me including fitting the new battery monitor and curing a leak in the bathroom which had resulted in shower water trickling along some trunking running through the shower cubicle then pouring on to our bed in the rear cabin. Labour plus materials for two days £273.

In March we also replaced the bathroom shower curtain with a shower door designed to fit the lower than usual shower cubicles you find on boats. The new shower door meant that we didn’t spend most of our time in the shower trying to unwrap ourselves from a difficult to clean shower curtain.

In April we recovered all eight seats and backs in the L shaped saloon and in the Pullman’s dinette. Sally, clever girl, also made ten pairs of matching curtains. The seats cost £650 to recover. Material for the curtains brought the total to £800. I also had to pay an eye watering £114 for a new thermostat for my Mercedes engine.

The following month we asked The Little Chimney Co to manufacture a stainless steel chimney to provide us with a durable alternative to the off the shelf steel ones which fell apart every year. Cost £150.

In June we had the new calorifier fitted and a new relay fitted to ensure that both battery banks charged properly. We also purchased a folding trolley for transporting toilet cassettes, gas and coal, some new fenders, shackles and engine oil. Total £450. Oh, and another £1.60 for a pack of three tennis balls from Amazon to put on the end of our mooring stakes.

In July we purchased a first aid kit, two CRT style lifejacket and a new 12v fridge. We also removed the carpet we had foolishly left in our bedroom when the laminate flooring was installed and replaced it with more laminate flooring. Total £795.

The next month we paid a deposit to a carpenter to secure his services for boarding and insulating the engine properly and had the engine’s head gasket replaced and a faulty bleed valve replaced on my mud box. I also had the boat’s original fuse board replaced with one which was neater, more modern and easier to understand and access, had the new shower door fitted, new sockets installed in the front of the boat, a new LED headlamp fitted and the alternator wiring improved, bought a 2.6KW suitcase generator for heavy duty electrical items when cruising which, surprisingly we’ve only used for ten minutes in the last eight weeks, a Jerry can and petrol and oil for the generator, and a 10m shoreline, also for the generator. Total cost £2,700.

In October, now running out of steam, money and the will to live, we paid the balance due for the first class engine boxing and soundproofing work then had some more electrical work done in the cabin. Total cost £1,300.

The next month I purchased an LPG conversion kit for the generator and a motion sensor battery powered light for the engine room costing me another £200.

To finish the year off, and ensure we couldn’t afford a holiday for a very long time, I had the alternator adjusted, some more wiring replaced inside and the oil, temperature and tachometer gauges rewired in my pigeon box. Cost £400.

In January with my retirement from full time employment and the start of our grand adventure just four months away, I pushed the boat out and replaced my failed bank of four 135ah lead acid batteries with larger capacity maintenance free 160ah AGM batteries.

In February, knowing that I was likely to run the engine for 1,000 hours a year once I started cruising in earnest, I spent £190 for a one to one engine service tuition from RCR’s senior engineer, Kerry. Now rather than have to spend £150 every 250 hours for someone else to service my engine, I can do it myself at no cost other than £25 for oil and filters. That’s the theory anyway. I’ve yet to actually do one myself but the next service is due within the next two weeks.

Remember I mentioned that my stove struggles to push the heat it generates to the far end of our cabin? To overcome this, most boat owners simply invest most of their savings in an Ecofan. These fans so a marvellous job of pushing heat away from the stove. They use the stove’s heat to power the fan, providing the stove has a single skinned, and therefore hot, top plate. I bought an Ecofan and couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t work until I realised that my stove has a double skin on top which means that you can rest the palm of your hand on top without burning it.

My solution, which works very well indeed, was to install a 12v ceiling fan close to the stove in line with the two bulkhead doorways either side of our walk through bathroom. Now, if we want the back of the boat warm, we simply make sure that the bathroom doors are open then turn on the fan. Within half an hour the temperature at the back of the boat increases by six or seven degrees.

I purchased the fan in February then had it fitted in March along with three more LED ceiling lights and a key safe.

I had the key safe fitted after hearing horror stories about boaters who managed to lock themselves out of their floating homes then pay a small fortune to someone to break in for them. I’ve come close to locking myself out twice before when I dropped my key ring in the cut.

The key safe offers us wonderful peace of mind. It’s bolted through the bulkhead by our front door so can’t be removed. We keep a spare key for the front door in it. Total cost £400.

That was our refurbishment pretty much done apart from a couple of largish purchases last month and this.

Last month I had my rear hatch surround tidied up and improved. There was a gap between the top of the doors and the hatch large enough to fit my shore line without squashing it so, of course, the gap also allowed the wind to whistle through into the cabin when it was blowing from the stern. The gap was removed curing the draught problem but causing another problem because there was nowhere for the shoreline to go. I had a socket installed on the rear bulkhead next to the doors. Cost £350.

Earlier this month I managed to wear a hole in my exhaust waterlock. This could have been disastrous because the water drawn from the canal and passed around the engine which then should have been expelled from the back of the boat via the exhaust was now able to leak into the bilge. I could possibly have sunk the boat.

Fortunately I was able to spot and address the problem before any damage was done to anything other than my bank balance. The cost of a new waterlock, a steel basket to secure it away from the gearbox coupling which had done the damage, the waterlock fitting and the replacement of my stern gland packing while the engineer was with me cost £300.

Last but far from least, we had our cheap and cheerful Porta Potti replaced last week with a composting toilet. The toilet was very expensive compared to the stand alone cassette I’ve been used to for the last five years but, oh boy, what a difference. We now have an effective and pretty much odour free toilet on board which doesn’t involve either moving the boat to a pump out station or lugging a heavy and foul smelling cassette full of human waste to an equally foul smelling and often inoperable Elsan waste disposal point.

Today the boat is very different from the basic craft I moved on to five years ago. It’s a very comfortable, warm and dry floating home fully equipped for weeks or months cruising off grid.

I’m delighted with the boat now. The cabin paint could look smarter but we’re considering which way to go with that at the moment. A professional paint job will cost us roughly £100 a foot or in excess of £6,000 (£8,500 was the price given to me verbally at Crick yesterday) and we would have to find alternative accommodation for a month and a half while it was done. We could do the work ourselves for about a third of the price but we would need to spend six weeks doing it. I don’t really think that’s an option as neither of us has the skills needed to do a first class job.

The only other improvement on the cards is replacing all of the windows. They’re old, tatty looking, and very draughty. The polycarbonate secondary double glazing does a great job eliminating the draughts but with them in place, Sally can’t easily get into the space between plastic and glass to do any cleaning.

The problem I think we’ll have if we want new windows fitted is with the hardwood surrounds fitted to bridge the gap between the old wooden and the new steel cabins. If these have to be taken out to allow new windows to be fitted then replaced afterwards, the cost of replacing the windows is likely to be prohibitive.

I’ve worn myself out now. I hope you’ve found this much longer than usual newsletter useful. As I pointed out at the beginning of this section, all of these improvements are specific to my boat and the way I wanted to improve it. However, if you’re buying a boat with a view to using it for extended cruising, you might be guided in the right direction by reading about what I’ve done over the last few years.

That’s it. We left our boat show mooring this morning at 9am after two days of none existent phone signals and internet connections. It’s 3.30pm now. We’re going to take the dogs for a long walk on a very peaceful stretch of canal far, far away from the crowds of Crick.

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees Steve and Kathy Hammond…

“Paul provided all the information we needed – what to bring, how to find the marina etc. I would emphasise the need for waterproofs – if it is raining there is no escape!

We are considering whether a narrowboat would be right for us as a holiday/touring base in a couple of years and Paul helped us with just about everything we needed to know in making our decision – selecting, purchasing, maintaining, costs, regulations, driving, etiquette and much more. Having never been on a narrowboat before we started the day with some trepidation; we both ended the day driving his 62’ boat in with reasonable skill and confidence whilst tackling strong winds, locks, tight bends, and a fair amount of traffic in some places. This says much about Paul’s calm instruction and willingness to help, especially when the inevitable mistakes happened.

A great day; as well as learning lots it really brought home to us the main reason for buying a boat – either to live on or escape to – being able to put away the stresses of daily life and travel and stay in beautiful, peaceful countryside where relaxation is pretty much compulsory.

We would definitely recommend an instruction day with Paul to anyone thinking of owning a narrowboat, whether for leisure or as a home. Anyone thinking of buying a boat should take one of his courses – you will learn so much and could avoid making a costly mistake.”

 

 

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

17th May 2015

Composting toilets – The eco friendly method of disposing of your on board waste is now becoming a viable alternative to cassette and pump out toilets

10th May 2015

Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring

3rd May 2015

Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.

30th November 2014

Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.

23rd November 2014

London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.

2nd November 2014

Narrowboat CO2 emissions  – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.

26th October 2014

Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.

19th October 2014

Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.

12th October 2014

The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?

5th October 2014

I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.

28th September 2014

Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.

7th September 2014

Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment

2015 05 17 Newsletter – Composting Toilets And Off Grid Power Saving Tips

Since Sally and I left our beautiful mooring on the northern fringe of Locks marina at Calcutt Boats just over a month ago, I’ve received a steady stream of emails from site subscribers asking whether our cruise to date has been as enjoyable and relaxing as we hoped when we began planning our semi-retirement cruise nearly a year ago.

Let me describe two days at the beginning of this week and show you just two photo’s. You can draw your own conclusions.

We were moored close to Hopwas village opposite Hopwas Hayes wood. Wood bridge, one of two foot bridges over the canal into the woods, was a hundred metres behind us. On the towpath side of the boat, a wooded hillside fell a hundred gentle feet down to the equally gentle and appropriately named river Tame.

Free to do as we please all day, every day. What's not to like about our new lifestyle?

Free to do as we please all day, every day. What’s not to like about our new lifestyle?

Hopwas wood is a dog walker’s and nature lover’s paradise. A network of well used, mainly dry footpaths snake through four hundred acres of ancient woodland, up and down steep hills, around a small long disused canal-side quarry and around the perimeter of the woods with sweeping views over miles of Staffordshire countryside.

There’s stands of towering beech, a jungle of dark and impenetrable spindly birch, towering pine and magnificent twisted oak shading carpets of bracken. The woods is a wonderful place to take two energetic dogs to let off steam while we sit on a fallen trunk enjoying a tasty packed lunch.

Enjoying a stress free life continuously cruising England's waterways

Enjoying a stress free life continuously cruising England’s waterways

Even though my life has been far from stressful in recent years, spending time in this environment is as close as I’ve ever been to complete relaxation and peace. Both Sally and I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time in these woods but, with appointments to keep, we moved on again on Wednesday.

If I’m on my own at the helm, which I am most of the time, my favourite steering positon is sitting on the starboard side of the cabin roof with my heels braced against the left hand side of the cabin hatch frame, my right foot ready to dip beneath the hatch to gently tweak the Morse control. I invested in a Midland Chandlers waterproof knee kneeler to cushion my bony behind. Seventeen pounds fifty very well spent. I can sit there for hours now in complete comfort.

After leaving Hopwas we stopped close to Asda on the outskirts of Tamworth for shopping, then Fazeley Junction for water, rubbish disposal and to empty the cassette, then re-joined the Coventry canal and passed the first graffiti since Birmingham three weeks earlier.

It’s interesting watching the interaction between footpath users and passing boaters. Dog walkers, often helmeted leisure cyclists, joggers and anglers usually turn their heads, smile or wave or both. Those simply using the towpath as a shortcut between two points in their busy lives walk or ride with heads down, uninterested either in the people or the scenery around them. Quite a few of these insular towpath users passed me as we moved through Tamworth.

Onwards and upwards we cruised through the slow filling pair of Glascote locks, past an empty basin now devoid of boats, once home to Steve Hudson and his band of evangelic boat owners, now occupied by just two primer painted shells.

A spindly grey heron floated into the air from a canal-side garden suspiciously close to a carp filled pond.

Minutes later, there was sudden tap on my leg and an olive wood board appeared through the hatch, plate for my working lunch of chilli cheese and garlic chutney of Jacob’s cream crackers. The hand disappeared, then appeared once more holding a steaming mug of coffee.

I passed two attentive swans with seven cygnets, rows of empty pontoons at Alvecote marina, then Pooley nature reserve dissected by the busy M42 overhead.

Two hours into the journey we caught up with CRT’s towpath maintenance contractors close to Polesworth. We had been following them since they passed us at Hopwas the previous afternoon, ploughing through a thin waterborne carpet of cut grass.

We moved slowly past a continuous line of live aboard boats between bridge 49 and the start of the Atherstone flight.

We reached the head of the flight at 5pm, helped by a Birmingham couple on NB Romany Girl. They were behind us on the flight but each time we reached a lock, the lady hurried along the towpath from the previous lock to close the upstream gate for us as we left. How kind.

As we left Atherstone I frightened the life out of Sally. I rounded a very shallow bend, moving closer to the offside to avoid some long term moorers, and pushed the starboard side of the boat on to a steeply shelving mud flat causing us to list by twenty degrees for a minute before I slip back into deeper water again. Sally popped her head through the rear hatch looking like she was about to abandon ship. She thought we were sinking.

Over the next half hour I tried to moor five times on a suspiciously empty west facing sun soaked and wind protected stretch of towpath. Frustratingly I couldn’t get the stern closer than six feet to the bank so we finally stopped after the next bend, in the shade but close to the bank.

A grey and cold start at 7.30am for another full day’s cruise. Past CRT’s Heartshill depot, then a six feet high concrete bank on the offside in front of long neglected quarries, followed by more former quarries, the spoil heaps now pleasingly grassed, on past CRT’s Mount Jud long term moorings, empty apart from three dilapidated cruisers and then half an hour of urban cruising through less than expected floating plastic and under occasional graffiti covered bridges.

We saw, or rather, felt, the day’s first moving boat on the outskirts of Nuneaton. We rounded a tight bend straight into the bow of Royal Navy owned Calcutt Boats maintained narrowboat Trafalgar. Some swift evasive manoeuvring from both boats, a brief encounter with the Armco for them, and a little unexpected offside undergrowth clearing from me, then we were both on our way.

Just past Marston Junction and the start of the Ashby canal we crawled slowly past Charity Dock with its collection of old and unloved GRP cruisers and nearby silently staring manikins.

A silent manakin at Charity Dock

A silent manakin at Charity Dock

We moored above the stop lock at Hawkesbury Junction for lunch at The Greyhound. An hour and a half later we set off in heavy rain. I didn’t mind. I look forward to heavy rain. The £250 I invested in a set of Guy Cotton deep sea fishermen’s yellow plastic waterproofs was money very well spent indeed.

They don’t look trendy and they immediately soak you from the inside if you do any physical exercise such as opening and closing lock gates. But for standing motionless for hours on end at the back of a narrowboat, they are perfect.

I stood exposed to the elements for four hours in torrential rain as we trundled alongside the M6, ducked under the M69, swung around Ansty then cruised above its picturesque golf course on the right and the West Coast Main Line a handful of feet away on the left.

We paused briefly to negotiate Rose Narrowboat’s swing bridge then veered away from the railway to the comparative peace near Brinklow marina where I hoped to moor for the night. My mind was playing games with me again. I was sure we moored close to the marina a couple of years ago when we passed this way but all the banks were shallow and inaccessible.

After hoping for a quiet and peaceful mooring, we ended up sandwiched between a rail and a road bridge close to Lime Farm marina, but it was either there or hoping to find a free spot on the always popular Newbold visitor moorings.

We moved from our rather soggy spot on Friday morning, passing a solid rank of boats on the Newbold moorings, then on to much drier but very shallow moorings close to Tesco in Rugby. The moorings are handy for shopping but a pain to use especially if, like me, you leap gazelle like four feet from the boat straight into a pile of muck left by either a small horse or a very large dog.

Securing the boat took me five minutes. Cleaning the foul smelling dog dirt off my new trainers took quarter of an hour. Nipping to Tesco to pick up everything we need didn’t take much longer.

While Sally unpacked our groceries, I cruised gently away from noisy central Rugby to a far more peaceful setting at the tandem flight of three locks at Hillmorton.

A pair of gentle swans at Hillmorton Bottom Lock

A pair of gentle swans at Hillmorton Bottom Lock

While we stopped at the water point below the flight, I made friends with three very gentle adolescent swans dozing on the grass close to our stern. All three crowded around me gently nipping my tee shirt with shoulder high beaks, trying to reach four slices of wholegrain bread I held out for them.

Above the bottom lock we pulled over again so that I could lug our full cassette over the road bridge to the Elsan point on the opposite bank. I didn’t mind. Cassette carrying should be a thing of the past in less than a week. See the composting section below to find out what I’m talking about.

Once through the locks and after an hour’s stop at Hillmorton Wharf to talk toilets (see below) we trundled along the canal for another half hour before mooring on a short length of Armco on an otherwise shallow bank ensuring that we had no guests for the rest of the evening. Or so we thought.

At 8pm we heard the sound of ever louder singing and shouting, then a racing engine, then an almighty bang as a Union Canal Carriers hire boat smashed into our bow, then scraped the full length of our port side.

The four beer swilling thirty somethings on the front deck smiled and raised half apologetic hands. The three morons on the rear deck simply laughed then jammed the throttle forward, thankfully speeding them and their idiocy far, far away from us.

Since we joined the Oxford canal at Hawkesbury junction there had been a significant increase in the number of boats on the move, both privately owned and hire boats. Fortunately most of the helmsmen knew what they were doing and treated their own boats and those around them with respect.

Another hour at the tiller the following morning brought us to a familiar and thankfully deserted stretch of Armco opposite sheep filled fields a mile from Braunston Junction.

After wandering into Braunston to visit Midland Chandlers to buy a tin of Toplac Mauritius Blue to replace the concrete hard tin in the engine room, we sat in our camp chairs in the warm sun trying not to notice the icy wind.

Our solitude came to an end when a hire boat slowly cruised past the 300m stretch of boat free Armco either side of us then, with a great deal of determined effort, managed to reverse their boat on to their night-time mooring two feet from our bow.

We’re still there now. The hire boat has gone. Sally’s unloaded everything off the front deck, then removed the cratch cover. Now she’s rubbing down the cratch board woodwork ready for touching up. I suppose I’ll have to go and do my bit in a minute.

Managing your life off grid

Sally and I have been living off grid for a month now. It’s not long in the grand scheme of things but four weeks is long enough to discover that we can manage our lives on board much more efficiently and cheaply than we used to.

Take our water supply for example. We have a very modestly sized tank. At three hundred and fifty litres it is less than half the size of most narrowboats, so initially the limited supply caused us some issues.

Sally didn’t realise quite how small the tank was until we ran out a few times miles from the nearest water point, especially after her eyes glazed over and she began one of her marathon washing sessions.

Our twin tub washing machine’s wash tub hold forty litres, so if Sally washes a load, then empties and refills the tub a couple of times to rinse the clothes through, she’s used a third of our water tank. Three loads of washing in a day and, hey presto, we’re out of water.

Sally also used to enthusiastically turn the taps on full to rinse a couple of plates, wash the dog’s bowls, fill a bucket to clean the floor, or any one of the dozens of tasks on board requiring water. I was almost as bad.

The problem was that both of us were used to having an unlimited amount of water almost on tap. On our old mooring at Calcutt Boats, the pontoon mounted water supply was just ten feet from our bow. We often left the hose connected to the tap with the nozzle jammed into our tank filler. Whenever we needed water, which was often, we simply walked to the front of the boat to twist the hose nozzle.

Once we moved to our new mooring at the marina at the beginning of April, refilling our tank wasn’t quite so easy. The nearest tap was 100m away so we had to buy two new Hozelock reels each with fifty metres of hose then wheel into position and reel out both of them whenever we wanted to refill the tank. We soon developed a routine though so we reverted to our wasteful ways.

Over the last month, we’ve slowly reduced the water we use and refined the way we use it.

Forward planning is the key to a happy life on board. Now, Sally does the washing while we are cruising, as long as we are cruising past a water point. She tries to get as much done before we reach the water point so that when we top the tank up we can use it for showering and washing dishes only and so stay longer in rural moorings.

Providing there isn’t a queue at the water point, we also both try to have a shower while we are filling, especially if Sally needs to wash her several feet of hair.

With the washing done by the time we reach the water point, while the tank is filling Sally fills the twin tub with water too so we have an additional forty litres of clean water which she has available to use for floor or dog washing without having to deplete the tank.

To save more water, and because of the more efficient way we’re managing the contents of our diesel tank, I only shower every other day. Sally showers every day but because we don’t have hot water every second day, her showers tend to be both brief and very vocal.

We don’t have hot water every day because to heat water when we’re off grid I need to run the engine for an hour. I don’t want to run the engine and use one and a half litres of diesel if I don’t need to charge my battery bank.

I’m delighted to say that I don’t need to top the batteries up daily because (A) my new bank of four 160ah AGM batteries is performing much better than my old bank of four 135ah lead acid batteries and (B) we don’t waste our electricity so much these days.

We bought a 2.6kw Kippor suitcase generator to allow us to use high power mains appliances when off grid. These appliances included a vacuum cleaner, iron, hair dryer and straighteners and my Nespresso coffee machine. I had very little interest in the vacuum cleaner and none at all in the other appliances apart from the coffee machine but Sally seemed to think they were important.

I was both delighted and surprised to discover that the coffee machine would just about run via the inverter and battery bank.

In the last month the hair dryer, hair straighteners or iron haven’t been used at all. The vacuum cleaner has been used twice for a total of ten minutes; once when Sally cleaned our mattress properly and once when I have the engine room a spring clean. We could have managed without the vacuum cleaner on both occasions.

Coincidentally, I received the following email on the subject of vacuum cleaners from narrowboat enthusiast Richard Genner while I was writing this section.

“picking up on the references on your website about 240V appliances on narrowboats, and knowing that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and that many narrowboat users will like to swing their feet out of bed onto carpet in the morning, and maybe in the summer months toddle along bare-footed on carpet to the kitchen, kettle and first coffee of the day, a vacuum cleaner is something of an essential on a boat, but they are quite 240V power hungry appliances.

But how many narrowboaters have twigged to the potential of the new generation of battery powered vacuum cleaners? My wife bought one before Christmas 2014, and I am impressed, it’s light, powerful, effective and easy to empty, and of course doesn’t have the dreaded power lead. And it’s quite slim-line, so on a narrow boat, it could easily be put away/hidden away at the back of a wardrobe, and therefore, of course, not sit there glowering ‘use me’ every time you pass it! There is a down side, of course, it wasn’t particularly cheap. But my wife firmly believes you get what you pay for, ours is a Bosch and is effective and well made, and courtesy of the internet, we paid the lowest available price, but everyone can make their own choice.

The beauty is that is powered by a rechargeable battery, so for boaters, use it when moored at the canal/riverside, waiting to get into a lock, etc. and charge it from the alternator on the engine when travelling, or from the shore-line when moored against the pontoon in a marina. I can’t find a power-rating for the charger but it is no bigger than my laptop charger, and it takes 3 – 6 hours to charge from flat to full the 25.2V lithium battery, so the draw on a 240V must, I believe, be well with in VA rating of any inverter worth having on a boat.

So that’s another option for domestic 240V appliances, but I’m not sure yet that there is a market for lithium battery powered irons or kettles!”

I have to disagree with Richard with regards to carpets. Dogs, boats and carpets are not a happy combination. We replaced the boat’s threadbare carpet with oak effect laminate flooring. It’s much more practical because it’s so much easier to keep clean.

I toyed with the idea of using a cordless vacuum cleaner before I invested in the generator. In fact, I actually bought one. It’s was a well thought of, rather expensive Phillips hand held vacuum. It didn’t hold a great deal but I thought it would be ideal for whizzing around the boat picking up dust and dog hairs on a daily basis. I bought it while Sally was away in the Philippines. When she returned, after I had been enthusiastically using it for three or four weeks, I proudly handed it to her and told her how much easier her life would be with this handy little appliance.

She did a very good Elvis impression as she curled her top lip then grabbed the vacuum off me and waved it at the floor for a few seconds before handing it back and walking off. She’s not touched it since.

I considered investing most of my savings in a Dyson Animal cordless vacuum cleaner. Dyson claim that it’s as powerful as a mains powered vacuum. I know a couple of boaters who use them and agree that they’re more than powerful enough to do the job.

I don’t think we’ll be going down that route though. Now Sally is used to not having an immediately accessible vacuum cleaner, she’s more than happy to do without. She simply uses a dustpan and brush to sweep up the loose dirt and dog hairs before cleaning the floor with a mop.

Ironing has been dispensed with completely. That’s not because we (Sally) have let our standards slip. We both still look as neat and tidy as we’ve ever done, but without the aid of a power hungry device.

Sally’s solution is simple. Once she’s taken a load out of the twin tub spin tub, she hangs the washing on a rail above the washing machine until it’s dry and most of the creases have fallen out, then folds everything neatly and stacks it on three shelves I had fitted last year when our terminally ill gas heater was removed from the bathroom. Sally, who is ever critical about our appearance, can’t tell the difference between clothes she has painstakingly ironed and garments which have been hung, dried, folded and stacked.

Hair drying has become a thing of the past too. Not that my own half inch long hair has ever been a problem but Sally has much more of a logistical issue with nearly two feet of the stuff.

Since we’ve been off grid full time, Sally is far more relaxed. She isn’t in a hurry to go anywhere so she’s more than happy to allow her hair to dry naturally. It’s a change which I’m sure is better for her hair. It’s certainly better for our battery bank.

Because we’ve been moving most days, I haven’t had to be too careful with the battery bank’s charge but on two occasions we’ve stopped for three or four days in one spot with little or no engine running. During those periods, I made sure that the inverter was only running long enough to power our devices before switching it off thereby minimising the inverter’s drain on the bank.

Most frugal live aboard boat owners would still find us wasteful but we’re happy with the savings we’ve achieved. Our intention is to use our resources carefully but not to live without life’s creature comforts.

Composting Toilets

I think I’m turning green. Maybe you will too after reading this, so skip this article if you’re about to have lunch or are of a delicate disposition.

After a month living off grid, Sally and I are seriously considering swapping our Porta Potti Elegance cassette in favour of a composting toilet. I’ve spent the last week researching the subject. In the process, I’ve learned far more than I really wanted to know about other people’s bodily waste.

Airhead Composting Toilet

Airhead Composting Toilet

I know one or two boaters who use composting toilets but they are very much in the minority. I’ve been put off using them in the past after hearing too many tales of compost toilet users having to take mechanisms apart so that they can dive into their festering solids to try to get the thing working properly.

Many of the conventional composting toilets struggle to compost waste effectively. The problem is that both liquids and solids are deposited in one tank which means that the composting process, which requires the waste to be dried, involves additional heat and ventilation if it is to work properly or even at all.

The most effective composting toilets separate liquids from solids allowing the liquid reservoir to be removed and emptied every two to three days. The solids are stored in another part of the toilet where the composting process takes place.

The smallest and one of the most effective composting toilets available is the Airhead Compact. It’s slightly smaller than the Porta Potti Elegance we have at the moment.

I’ve researched effectiveness of composting toilets in general and the Airhead model in particular. I looked for reviews online, both good and bad. I’ve found a number of positive Airhead reviews but nothing bad at all.

At £800 + fitting, the toilet is a sizeable investment, but Sally and I think it will pay for itself quite quickly.

Our problem is that we tend to use our current Porta Potti just for liquids because we’ve always found the toilet both ineffective and smelly if we use it for the more serious business.

Because we only use the on board toilet for liquids, we have to use public conveniences for everything else. The public conveniences available to us on the canal are usually pubs or canal-side cafes.

We don’t like to take liberties so we usually buy at least a drink and maybe a cake or two in the cafes. Sometimes we go a little over the top and have drinks and a meal.

Over the last four weeks, we’ve spent over £100 in pubs and cafes, all because we want to use their toilets. If we waste a similar amount over the rest of the year, the cost of an effective odour free loo on board to use instead would soon pay for itself.

Earlier in the week I swapped a few emails with Richard, owner of The Canal Shop at Hillmorton Wharf. On Friday we moored there then spent an hour talking to his wife Susanne. Susanne and her husband Richard live on their boat moored close to the shop. They’ve been using a composting toilet on board for the last two years. Susanne told us that not having to flush the toilet after she’d finished was the hardest part of switching to a composting model. Apart from that, the transition was surprisingly easy.

The most important aspect of composting loos to remember is that the composting process will only work if there’s a healthy colony of aerobic bacteria in your toilet. The bacteria is within all of us. When you pass solids into the loo, you pass healthy bacteria too.

The bacteria is aerobic which means that it needs oxygen to survive. If there’s too little oxygen, too much moisture or any chemicals present, the bacteria dies, the composting process stops and you have a smelly toilet.

Removing excess moisture is achieved initially by separating solids and liquids. Once the solids are deposited in their own holding tank they are kept dry by drawing excess moisture away with a small 12v fan and aerated with a little human help.

There’s a crank handle on the side of the toilet which you turn a couple of times every time you use the loo. The handle turns paddles inside the solids container which stirs the solids and toilet paper within.

It’s essential to keep liquids and solids apart so a flap is kept closed unless you want to make a deposit so that all liquids are directed into the urine tank. To minimise the chance of liquids entering the solids receptacle, male users are required to sit to wee.

Cleaning and maintenance Is minimal but any cleaning must be done using eco products. Chemical use of any kind is disastrous. The urine container is kept odour free by adding a spoonful or two of sugar when required. Cleaning is done with a mixture of water, vinegar and tea tree oil.

Emptying the loo is simple. The liquid reservoir is easily accessible at the front of the toilet. You unclip it, take it outside and empty it into the nearest hedgerow. This method of disposal is EA approved.

The solids container is a little more difficult to get to, but no harder than getting at the cassette on our Porta Potti Elegance. The whole unit weighs just 15kg so lifting the toilet off the solids container on the base isn’t an issue.

Once released, the solids container can be emptied into a bag for disposal at one of CRT’s general waste facilities or, if there are no bins nearby, with the landowner’s permission, in a hole in the ground. Again, this method of disposal is EA approved.

The Airhead is solidly built with few moving parts to maintain or to go wrong. It’s been tested in the most difficult marine environments over the last fifteen years and, last but not least, it will fit into the smallest narrowboat spaces, including our tiny walk through bathroom.

After a quick chat with Sally, I ordered one while we were with Susanne. We’ve scheduled the half day installation for Thursday next week, so we’ll be able to try the new toilet out while we’re eating and drinking to excess for three days at the Crick Boat Show.

In the meantime, I’ve ordered a compact folding spade from eBay and a bottle of tea tree oil from Amazon. We’re ready to go green.

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Chris Cole…

“At present my plans are not properly established.  I will buy a narrow boat sometime later this year and would like it to be a ‘live aboard’…… but I do not think I will be happy as a continuous cruiser.   That presents the problem of moorings which we know are difficult to find especially if you want to be in a particular area.  Perhaps I might get an ordinary mooring and just spend a great deal of time on the boat  …… although that isn’t overly attractive.

As for booking a Discovery Day the reason(s) were simple …. I needed to get the feel of the water again and I needed to see how the other half lives.  The hope was to gain an insight into not only of the pleasures of, but more importantly the problems of, living day to day on the water. It doesn’t matter how much you read on the subject or listen to the view of others you need you be there.

Well the day generally was everything I had hoped for, except perhaps for the weather …… it was much too kind.

Information ?  plenty of it ….  all questions asked were answered as were many that I didn’t ask.  Tips on boat purchase, etiquette, steering, maintenance, day to day problems and chores, IT, home management e.g. storage, fuel and power, and so on, were all extremely helpful (even if I didn’t write them all down).

Instruction ?  your patience was commendable and your instruction fine …… narrow boats have unique characteristics and the amount of handling you gave to your student (that’s me) enabled them to be understood.  I promise to do better.”

What to add ?  I have given this thought but can’t think of anything missing.”

 

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

10th May 2015

Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring

3rd May 2015

Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.

30th November 2014

Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.

23rd November 2014

London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.

2nd November 2014

Narrowboat CO2 emissions  – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.

26th October 2014

Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.

19th October 2014

Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.

12th October 2014

The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?

5th October 2014

I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.

28th September 2014

Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.

7th September 2014

Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment

2015 05 10 Newsletter – Engine Room Leaks

At the beginning of the week, Bank Holiday Monday we made the mistake of moving from Tixall Wide to the water point at Great Haywood junction to top up our tank and empty the full to the brim cassette.

The junction was packed with bank holiday boaters, most of them trying to get on to the water point as the same time as me. There’s space for three boats to moor close to the taps, but one of the spaces is usually taken up by Anglo Welsh and one of their hire boats. I don’t know whether the mooring belongs to them, or whether they’re just taking liberties, but the additional space would be useful at such a busy spot.

We squeezed the boat in, did the necessary, then rather than try to reverse back the junction to turn, carried on for quarter of a mile to turn in the entrance to Great Haywood marina. Once turned, we past the junction again, then rose through Haywood lock before tying up on the towpath with a first class view of Shugborough Hall and its landscaped grounds.

We tried to stay out of the way of hundreds of bank holiday walkers, joggers and cyclists for the rest of the day. A guy two boats behind us had the right idea. He sat in his towpath camp chair all day with a pint jug full of beer, toasting passers-by and thoroughly enjoying himself.

Unusually for the day following a bank holiday weekend, the weather took a turn for the worse. Black clouds scudded above the oak branches whipping to and fro above our boat as rain rattled against the windows. Tuesday was the perfect day for staying indoors doing little jobs around the boat.

The most important task on my endless to do list was to try again to pinpoint the leak steadily filling the engine room bilge. Two days earlier I used a cloth to mop up half a gallon of clear bilge water. On Tuesday, the hour long mopping produced twice as much.

With the bilge bone dry, while I was waiting for signs of further ingress, I decided to empty my mud box.

My Mercedes engine is raw water cooled, which means that rather than the engine coolant passing through a tank welded to the hull beneath the surface of the water on the inside of the hull, water is drawn from the canal through a fine meshed grill into the engine, through a heat exchanger, and then, slightly warmer than when it came in, expelled through the exhaust.

Before the water circulates around the engine, it passes through a sealed vertical steel cylinder where most of the waterborne sediment falls to the bottom allowing the clearer water to continue on its cooling mission. This is my mud box. It needs periodic maintenance to clean out accumulated mud and other debris.

Because I’m naturally inept, I’m always slightly worried about opening something which, if I make a mistake, can fairly quickly sink the boat.

I was off to a flying start thanks to the full set of easily accessible ratchet spanners which I now have fixed to one of the cabin sides. After squeezing myself into the tiny gap between my battery bank and the engine frame and then bending double to duck under the frame so that I could reach the mud box, I carefully removed three 15mm nuts securing the mud box’s circular top plate, then even more carefully, put the nuts safely on a shelf so that they couldn’t fall into the dark and inaccessible space close to the mud box at the back of the engine. Before doing any of this I had checked and then checked again to make sure that the sea cock was closed to prevent canal water flooding into the engine room as soon as I took the mud box lid off.

With the top plate removed, and a little more careful contortion, I was able to scoop out three or four pints of stinking grey mud from the bottom of the cylinder with my hand and drop it into the bucket resting on my knee.

Feeling very proud of myself for getting this far without mishap, I replaced the top plate then promptly dropped one of the nuts God knows where beneath the engine. Of course, this was inevitable, and a bit of a problem.

I spent ten minutes with a powerful torch examining the space under and behind the engine from every angle, but the nut had disappeared without trace. Sally popped her head into the engine room to establish the reason for my swearing, then offered to help.

“There’s no point,” I told her, “I’ve spent ages looking for it. It’s gone. If I can’t find it, you’re not going to do any better.”

The two remaining nuts might possible have held the top plate firmly enough in place to prevent water pouring into the engine bay when the engine was running but I didn’t want to take the chance.

I decided to go cap in hand to Anglo Welsh who run about a dozen hire boats from their base at Great Haywood Junction. I took one of the two remaining nuts with me on the five minute walk back to the junction.

A very accommodating guy in their office unhesitatingly agreed to help. He pointed to their workshop across the yard then told me to search for a replacement in the dozens of small plastic bins fixed to the workshop wall.

Ten minutes later, when he came to see how I was getting on, I wasn’t doing too well at all. In fact I wasn’t searching in the wall bins, but in the dark space under one of his benches where I had dropped one of my two remaining nuts. Without my glasses or a torch, I really was working in the dark.

He tried but couldn’t quite hide the look of mild disgust as he bent down and instantly spotted and retrieved my red Damboline painted nut among all the other dull grey nuts and bolts laying there, then just as quickly found a replacement for me before glancing at me suspiciously then put two more in my hand.

Back at the boat, Sally asked whether I had been successful. I proudly showed her my new nut collection. “No problem,” I told her triumphantly, “I’ve got a replacement and now I have two spares as well!”

Sally gave me the same look as the engineer at Anglo Welsh as she placed something in my open hand. “Actually, you have three spares now. I found the one you dropped as soon as you left. It was under your feet!”

I finished securing the top plate standing in a pool of water. In the half hour I’d been away, the mysterious leak deposited another couple of pints in the bilge. I suppose I could have asked Sally to have a look. She probably would have found the source and fixed the leak in minutes but I’d suffered enough humiliation for one day, so I did what I do best and replaced the deck board so I couldn’t see the problem.

I took myself out for a walk in the evening. Sally stayed in the boat after wearing herself out earlier in the day so I had to entertain myself.

At Haywood Lock, the Staffs Way crosses the combined rivers Trent and Sow before cutting through the beautiful parkland of the Shugborough estate and then the ancient forest which borders nearly Cannock Chase.

Away from the constant stream of speeding cyclists on the Tarmac surface of the Staffs way and the noisy teatime traffic on the A513, I sat with my back against a towering scots pine close to a stand of magnificent oak while I enjoyed a fresh ham and cheese baguette and half a packet of fig rolls as I watched a buzzard circling overhead.

Satnall Hills Cannock Chase

Satnall Hills Cannock Chase

I wandered aimlessly around Satnall Hills for an hour before heading back through Shugborough Park. I sat in the shuttle bus shelter on the main road through the park while I eat the rest of my fig roles and watched two rams butting heads in a nearby fenced off field.

Back on the canal, a heron splashed noisily through the shallows chasing his evening supper. Then, to round the walk’s wildlife sights and sounds nicely, a tawny owl uttered its familiar too-wit too-woo from its tree top perch a hundred metres away.

On Thursday I found the engine room leak.

All I had to do was look properly. I found looking properly very much easier to do once I spent the five minutes necessary to remove all of the deck boards covering the engine to let a little light into the engine bay.

My engine is raw water cooled. Canal water is sucked through a grill in the side of the boat, through a mud box which traps and sediment, and bits of dead badger, then it passes through the engine’s heat exchanger before through about five feet of hose and two plastic boxes – I don’t know what they’re called, or even what they do – before being expelled from the boat.

The first of the two boxes runs past the engine close to the gearbox coupling. It was held away from the coupling by a cable tie. The cable tie appears to have broken recently and allowed the plastic box to rest against the revolving gearbox coupling which had then worn enough of the plastic away to allow a small jet of water to spurt into the space beneath the engine where I couldn’t see it. That’s why I hadn’t seen the leak. At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Given that the water leaking from the plastic box was slowly filling the bilge every time the engine was running, and that I clearly needed to have the engine running in order to move the boat, I thought I’d better have a bash at curing the leak before Sally and I had to resort to swimming rather than walking through the cabin.

There wasn’t a chandler or boat yard within walking distance so I used my all-encompassing engineering experience to think of an effective way to repair it with easily sourced materials. After a ten minute walk to Haywoods, the Spa shop in Great Haywood, I set to work with a tube of superglue and a roll of duct tape.

After carefully cleaning and drying the surrounding area then filling the tear in the plastic with nearly a full tube of superglue, I thoroughly bandaged the injured area with half a roll of duct tape. Then, with a self-satisfied smile, I stood back to admire my work for a minute or two before turning the engine on so I could marvel at my freshly waterproofed plastic box.

The engine purred into life, water surged through the engine, the duct tape groaned, bubbled, swelled, then with an exhausted gasp flopped to one side to allow a joyful jet of engine tainted water unlimited access to my trousers.

I was disappointed but not in the least surprised.

We left our old friend, Great Haywood Junction, at 7.30am on Friday, gentle ripples from the bow disturbing the glass smooth canal after two days of gale force winds and heavy rain. With one eye on the hills of Cannock Chase on my right and the other on the deepening pool of water in the bilge beneath my feet, we cruised sedately south past Little Haywood and Colwich, stopping the boat briefly at the honesty box under bridge 69 to swap two £1 coins for a dozen fresh farm eggs, before mooring close to Tesco in Rugeley to exchange £100 and four bags of rubbish for a trolley full of fresh food.

I swapped route information and the time of day with Peter Stacey on NB A Frayed Knot before continuing through Brereton, Armitage and Handsacre, buffeted by a freshening breeze and cooled by occasional showers.

Just after bridge 54 at Rileyhill we tried our hardest to moor against the frustratingly straight but shallow and rocky bank opposite pretty Ravenshaw Wood. After the grinding the bottom plate over a rocky shelf for the fourth and final time, we gave up, dropped down Wood End lock then stopped for the night on visitor moorings above Fradley Junction’s Shed House Lock.

The swathe of nearby short and muck free grass would have been a perfect playground for Charlie and Daisy apart from the brooding presence of Samson, a four year old rescued German shepherd, who lay on the grass next to his owner’s boat quietly watching us as we moored fifty feet away from him. I asked the lady owner whether our two soft spaniels would be safe near him. She asked her husband who sat reading a newspaper under the pram cover of their cruiser stern. “I haven’t a clue!” he replied without looking up. “Your dogs should be OK,” she added, “I can drag him off if he goes for them.”

Assured, but far from reassured, we made sure Daisy and Charlie stayed inside for the rest of the evening.

Once moored, my first job was engine bilge bailing. I removed two gallons of clear water, half-heartedly added another half roll of gaffer tape to the mountain of sticky stuff covering the offending hole then, in a rare moment of piety, offered a prayer to the god of narrowboat engines before closing the engine room door and heading for dinner.

Sally had the evening’s meal ingredients ready to cook. Fresh oysters, a bag of samphire grass ready for steaming, and a kilo of allegedly fresh Scottish mussels. The mussels didn’t look too fresh to me. All of the shells were open so, not wanting to run the risk of food poisoning miles from anywhere with just one small capacity toilet cassette between us, we threw the mussels away and replaced them with a tin of pilchard in tomato sauce, Pilchards and oysters aren’t the best combination but any port in a storm.

The following morning, we dropped down Fradley Junction’s Shed House and Middle locks, turned right at the junction then cruised ever closer roaring traffic on the A38 before pulling in to Streethay Wharf on the off chance that they could either repair or replace my leaking box.

Noisy but ever so helpful Streethay Wharf

Noisy but ever so helpful Streethay Wharf

Boss Nick climbed into my engine room to have a look. “The plastic box is a waterlock. We won’t be able to repair it, but you may be in luck. I think we have some old ones in the workshop somewhere. I’ll have a look now for you.”

Ten minutes later he was back with a waterlock almost identical to my own in his hand. “This one’s obviously second hand but it’s moulded plastic so if you can live with the discoloured plastic, it will do the job perfectly well. They’re £140 new. How does £70 sound?”

Seventy pounds sounded like a bargain. Nick told me that he could do the job immediately for me and he could stop the problem from happening again. The waterlock should have been fixed in place so that it couldn’t move. There was nothing nearby to fix it to so Nick suggested they manufacture a steel basket, weld the basket to the engine’s frame, then strap the waterlock into the basket.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I asked if their engineer could replace my stern gland packing at the same time. I had the packing replaced about eighteen months ago but I still have a problem stopping water dripping from the gland after then engine’s been running.

Nick promised to have a look for me and replace the packing if necessary. However he warned me that if the old packing was still in good condition, the more likely problem was that the drive shaft was worn. If the leak persisted after the packing was replaced again, the next step was to take the boat out of the water to remove the shaft and examine it.

Taking the boat out of the water, removing the shaft, then waiting for spare parts to be either sourced or manufactured was likely to be a lengthy and expensive job so I prayed, again, that replacing my packing would cure the problem.

Five hours later and £300 lighter, we were on our way. Half an hour after that, at 6pm, we stopped again. Our original destination for the day had been Hopworth Woods but, ever flexible, we moored close to Kings Orchard marina to devour a Piri Piri spatchcock chicken before walking half a mile to The plough at Huddlesford for a pint of Thatcher’s cider for me and an uninteresting soft drink for Sally.

This morning we cruised for an hour and a half to reach our current mooring opposite Hopwas Woods. We passed the immaculate canal-side gardens of Whittington, one complete with two proud swans and five new born cygnets, then next door, two haughty German shepherds loping through their garden to keep up with our boat, trying to peer into the cabin looking for something with four legs to savage.

Soon after we saw acre upon acre of polytunnels stretching both along the canal and away from it. I asked a lady of a certain age walking her bull terrier along the towpath if she knew what they were for. She did. Her face lit up as she increased her sedentary pace to keep up with me and tell me everything about the polytunnels, Whittington and her life within the village.

She told me that they used to be used to grow strawberries which were sold to both Tesco and Sainsbury’s but now asparagus was grown there instead, and also sold to the two big supermarkets, because of recently imposed pesticide restrictions.

She told me about the eastern European workers bussed in daily to pick the crops, the effects the pesticide used to have on her, her dogs, and the rest of the Whittington population, and much of her life in the half century she’d lived in the area. She told me much, much more but the conversation started as I was slowly negotiating a tight bridge hole, then continued as I increased speed and engine noise along the straight section which followed, so the engine noise drowned out most of what she was say. I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

I moored close to Wood bridge near the entrance to Hopwas woods then, fingers crossed, lifted the deck boards over the engine to see whether yesterday’s £300 had been a wise investment.

The engine bay was bone dry and the waterlock was still immovably strapped in place. Sadly, the stern gear was dripping as much as ever so the repair hadn’t worked. I’m not too bothered about that at the moment. There’s a high tech solution in place to collect stern gland leaks. I have a 10 litre grey plastic washing up bowl sitting in the bilge under the stern gear. There’s a float switch glued to the bottom of the washing up bowl next to a bilge pump.

The bilge pump regularly empties the washing up bowl, so as long as the pump continues to work, the engine bay should now stay dry.

Apart from the annoying barking of a nearby Labrador, excitedly waiting for his owner to throw a stick for him into the canal for the millionth time in the last half hour, I’m a very happy bunny.

Hopwas Woods - Perfect for a sunny Sunday picnic

Hopwas Woods – Perfect for a sunny Sunday picnic

The dog walker is one of the dozens of Sunday strollers close to the boat at the moment. I’m going to join them in a minute. Sally has a packed lunch already stowed in two rucksacks. We’re going to walk a mile into the woods, find a quiet and sunny glade, then fall asleep on a soft carpet of fallen leaves.

It’s such a hard life.

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Chris Cole…

“At present my plans are not properly established.  I will buy a narrow boat sometime later this year and would like it to be a ‘live aboard’…… but I do not think I will be happy as a continuous cruiser.   That presents the problem of moorings which we know are difficult to find especially if you want to be in a particular area.  Perhaps I might get an ordinary mooring and just spend a great deal of time on the boat  …… although that isn’t overly attractive.

As for booking a Discovery Day the reason(s) were simple …. I needed to get the feel of the water again and I needed to see how the other half lives.  The hope was to gain an insight into not only of the pleasures of, but more importantly the problems of, living day to day on the water. It doesn’t matter how much you read on the subject or listen to the view of others you need you be there.

Well the day generally was everything I had hoped for, except perhaps for the weather …… it was much too kind.

Information ?  plenty of it ….  all questions asked were answered as were many that I didn’t ask.  Tips on boat purchase, etiquette, steering, maintenance, day to day problems and chores, IT, home management e.g. storage, fuel and power, and so on, were all extremely helpful (even if I didn’t write them all down).

Instruction ?  your patience was commendable and your instruction fine …… narrow boats have unique characteristics and the amount of handling you gave to your student (that’s me) enabled them to be understood.  I promise to do better.”

What to add ?  I have given this thought but can’t think of anything missing.”

 

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

3rd May 2015

Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.

30th November 2014

Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.

23rd November 2014

London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.

2nd November 2014

Narrowboat CO2 emissions  – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.

26th October 2014

Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.

19th October 2014

Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.

12th October 2014

The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?

5th October 2014

I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.

28th September 2014

Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.

7th September 2014

Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
6

2015 05 03 Newsletter – Engine Room Storage Space Explained

Last Monday we headed north west past the acres of canal-side polytunnels at Whittington, then on to Huddlesford, the tranquility slightly marred by Virgin trains thundering past on the West Coast Main Line little more than a hundred feet away. The gardens of Whittington’s canal-side properties were a joy after the industrial squalor of Birmingham. The canal ducked under the railway next to The Plough in Huddlesford where a rambler in a wide brimmed leather hat raised his steaming plastic flask cup in salute.

Around the next bend we were held up briefly behind a red and green narrowboat zigzagging from bank to bank, cruising so slowly that I had to reverse half a dozen times to stop myself running into him. After half a mile he crashed into the towpath, fell rather than jumped from his boat, then skidded along the grassy bank frantically heaving on his centre line before he realised that he’d left the boat in gear. “This is my first trip!” he explained as I sailed past.

Minutes later we turned in to Kings Orchard marina for fuel. It’s a pleasant enough marina with security high on their list of priorities. Each of the pontoons is protected by a locked wire gate and the toilets by locked doors, thwarting boaters like me trying to avoid using my own loo.

Eighty litres filled the diesel tank to the brim which means that my average consumption over fifty eight hours use since my last refill was a slightly concerning 1.38 litres per hour. Good news though when the very helpful Irish guy serving us asked if we would like to top up with water and use their Elsan point before we left.

How could we refuse?

Once back on the canal we passed Streethay Wharf sandwiched between the West Coast Main Line and the ever busy A38, along a short stretch a handful of feet away from the whizzing duel carriageway cars and lorries, then a much more tranquil setting at Fradley Junction where we had a bit of an accident.

Sally, as usual, was on lock duty. We turned left at the junction and straight in to Fradley Middle Lock. Once through that we entered Shed House Lock. Once the rear gates were closed, in a moment of madness, Sally opened the paddles fully which resulted in the boat being launched into the top gate like an arrow from a bow.

The considerable impact instantly snapped the steel top fender loop leaving the fender hanging below the boat’s bow by the two bottom chains.

We stopped on the visitor moorings above the lock, removed the fender, assessed the damage, and then set off confidently towards the canal shop at the junction I spotted in my Pearson’s guide. Unfortunately the shop sold art rather than artefacts so we were out of luck.

Back on the boat, I searched through my bits’n’pieces box in the engine room. I found a short length of fender chain and some spare shackles so with Sally’s help I was able to “beard” the fender with the spare chain to keep it in place until I could buy a suitable length to do the job properly.

With the immediate problem overcome, we treated ourselves to coffee and carrot cake at the Kingfisher Holiday Park’s canal-side cafe back at the junction then, in the spirit of doing as little as humanly possible, sat on a bench in the sun next to our moored boat and read for a couple of hours.

Up next morning at the crack of dawn we continued our journey along wooded canal banks, pleasantly devoid of rubbish and clutter. The gardens, without exception, were a credit to the waterside home owners. Even two neighbouring properties, each garden complete with an ancient and rusting JCB, had carefully manicured the lawns around the old machinery.

We pulled in to King’s Bromley marina where I invested most of my month’s boat maintenance budget in two metres of eye wateringly expensive stainless steel chain and a handful of shackles.

We used their loos then spent a pleasant half an hour wandering around their beautifully landscaped grounds and two fascinating features; a pair of dilapidated lock balance beams and a short rust covered narrowboat with a sentry box like structure towards the rear which must have prevented the boat from passing under bridges, not that passing under bridges was an issue given that the boat was moored on a lawn.

Onwards through Handsacre, Armitage and the interesting seven feet wide stretch of canal before Brereton, the roofless “Plumb Pudding” tunnel, still marvelling at the neat and tidy gardens and rubbish free waterway, now roughly following the Trent, we stopped in the centre of Rugeley almost in Tesco’s car park at bridge 66.

The Plumb Pudding Tunnel

The Plumb Pudding Tunnel

With a full fridge and empty bins we continued our journey. Sorry Tesco, I dropped four bags of rubbish in the bin by your entrance, but I’m sure you don’t mind. I spend a fortune in your shops.

Once out of Rugeley, and in the face of a strengthening wind, we decided to stop for the day at bridge 69 opposite Taft Wharf farm where there’s an operating diesel and coal boat sitting firmly in the mud.

After buying a dozen eggs from the farm, squeezed from hens while we waited, we spent a pleasant night on the boat then set off at 8am on the arduous two mile, one lock cruise to the visitor moorings north of bridge seventy two. We wanted to stay close to Cannock Chase for a few days but we had liquid management logistics to consider. We had a full cassette and a nearly empty water tank.

There was an Elsan point and water at the junction, so there was no problem emptying one and filling the other but we needed to determine where we could moor later so that we would still be within easy walking distance of Cannock Chase and be able to return easily to the junction again for water and waste disposal.

Turning at the junction then returning to our present mooring was no good because if we then wanted to revisit the water point we would need to cruise four hours to Fradley junction before we could turn the boat and head back. Carrying on past the water point and mooring somewhere on the towpath between there and the entrance to Great Haywood marina was an option but with limited mooring opportunities there we thought our best bet would be to reverse off the water point a hundred metres back to the junction, turn on to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and moor half a mile from the junction at Tixall Wide.

I had been told quite often that Tixall Wide was a beautiful spot to moor, but hadn’t seen it and didn’t know whether Tixall Wide was actually wide enough to turn my own boat if other boats were moored there.

We turned left at the junction towards Tixall Wide and had the pleasure of listening for a couple of minutes to a lady with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp and an attitude to match. She wasn’t a happy boater. A 70′ boat coming from the north turning onto the Staffs and Worcester canal was immediately caught by the wind and blown into her path.

Rather than recognise that wind and narrowboats don’t mix, shrug philosophically, smile and move out of the way of the helplessly drifting boat, she took a deep breath and in her shrillest voice yelled, “Oi! Are you new at this game? Where are you going? We drive on the right on the waterways!” 

The placid crew on the seventy footer winced, pushed their bow away from one of the dozen Anglo Welsh hire boats moored at right angles to the canal and lowered their heads to avoid the withering stare directed at them as they passed. Fortunately this kind of exchange is the exception rather than the rule.

Another fine minutes was all we needed to establish that Tixall Wide, more small lake than canal, offered plenty of room to easily turn the longest narrowboat so twenty minutes later we were back at the boat for the short cruise to the water point and Elsan facility and then to our new spacious mooring. But we had to deal with a wet dog first.

Charlie is a friendly, loving but rather nervous springer spaniel with an annoying habit of barking whenever people or other dogs approach. We’ve tried to break him of the habit but we’ve failed miserably. He doesn’t bark for very long and there’s certainly no malice in his misguided attempts to say hello, but his apparent aggression is embarrassing.

Back near the boat we met another boater with a similarly highly strong dog. This one was a collie. I offered my normal greeting of “Don’t worry if he barks, there isn’t an ounce of harm in him”. The collie owner replied in a similar vein, so we left the two dogs to it.

Charlie the "killer" spaniel

Charlie the “killer” spaniel

Charlie bared his fangs and barked. The collie, not to be outdone, darted forward and snapped half-heartedly at Charlie. Charlie responded, as usual, by running as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Unfortunately for him, the opposite direction on this occasion was straight in to the canal.

Stupid dog.

After Sally towelled Charlie dry, we moved to Tixall Wide then spent the rest of the day pottering.

While Sally removed all our gear plus plastic matting from the front deck then hosed and scrubbed it clean, I replaced the chain on our front fender, then spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the engine room (see below) and tackling some long overdue jobs.

Our rear deck has a hatch set in it which allows access to the weed hatch. In the recessed hatch surround is a drainage hole to channel any water falling on the deck through a three feet length of rubber hose running from beneath the hatch through a hole in the side of the boat then into the canal. The hose regularly blocks so I rerouted the hose vertically into the water trap and bilge pump beneath the stern gland.

Then I looked at everything I have stored in the engine room and realised how much I appreciate having a traditional stern narrowboat and the dry and secure storage space afforded by the engine room.

I appreciated the extra space even more once I took everything out and laid it on the towpath so I could give the engine room a spring clean. I’ve listed everything in there and included a photo below.

One of my spring cleaning duties was to remove a little water which has suddenly appeared in the bilge. I haven’t a clue where it’s come from. I know it’s not running back from the cabin bilge. I know it’s not condensation forming on the uninsulated engine room metal, something which I suffer from during the winter months, and I know it’s not rainwater overflowing the blocked drain in the deck above, or water dripping from the stern gland.

All I know is that there’s two or three pints of clear liquid in there after even a short cruise. The ingress is driving me mad after months of having a bone dry bilge, but I’m sure I’ll discover the reason eventually.

At the moment if I want to remove every drop of water from the engine bilge I have to squeeze into a tight gap between the immovable frame around the engine and the port side of the boat, then bend double under the frame so I can mop up the water with a cloth then wring it out in a bucket. It’s not a comfortable or practical solution.

I’ve been looking for a while now for a wet and dry vac powerful enough to do the job and small enough to store in the engine room. Until this week, every machine I found was either too large or had poor customer reviews, but I think I’ve found one which is perfect for the job.

This one looks perfect. It’s small enough to fit easily in the engine room, has very good reviews, some from narrowboat owners, and it costs less than £50. I’ll let you know how I get on with it but right now I have to find my bucket and cloth and disappear into the depths of the engine bay again.

Engine room equipment

If you haven’t yet decided which narrowboat stern will suit you best, maybe I can help you. There are three narrowboat stern types; traditional, semi traditional and cruiser.

A cruiser stern is what you see on the majority of hire boats. The back of the boat has a large open deck area where half a dozen happy holiday boaters can stand in comfort with the helmsman while he or she grips the tiller with a white knuckled fist wondering how on Earth they are going to keep the unwieldy vessel in the middle of such a thin ribbon of water.

A boat with a semi traditional stern also has a large rear deck but the cabin sides extend almost to the back of the boat enclosing the deck.

Both the cruiser and the semi traditional stern narrowboats enjoy more space for standing in comfort outside while the boat is in motion. The downside is that there is less cabin space within the boat and that the engine bay is often prone to unwanted water ingress via the deck above.

The third type is the traditional stern, which is what I have on my boat. A traditional or “trad” stern narrowboat has a limited amount of space for guests to stand with the helmsman but the engine is enclosed within the main cabin.

This type of stern is perfect for me. I rarely have more than two guests on the boat. Most of my visitors are out with me for my discovery days. In can accommodate two people in addition to myself on my rear deck in reasonable comfort, providing I use a shorter than normal tiller which doesn’t extend into the cockpit where one of the guests needs to stand.

As far as I’m concerned, the advantages of a trad stern far outweigh the disadvantages.

There is very little living space on board a narrowboat. With a forty eight feet long cabin I have two hundred and eighty eight square feet to pack all of Sally’s and my own worldly possessions, including thirty square feet in the engine room.

You may be tempted to dismiss the additional space in the engine room but, before you do, let me tell you what I have in mine. All of the following are items which I want or need on board but which I don’t particularly want cluttering our living space.

There’s a huge amount of stuff in there but, once I paid a fortune to have the engine professionally boxed in and sound proofed, there is room to store everything neatly and out of the way.

I took everything out of the engine room and laid it out on the towpath so that I could list it. See what I do for you?

Here’s about half of the engine room’s contents. I didn’t remove the things clipped to or hanging from the walls.

Here's about half of the engine room's contents. I didn't remove the things clipped to or hanging from the walls

Here’s about half of the engine room’s contents. I didn’t remove the things clipped to or hanging from the walls

Kipor suitcase generator – We purchased the generator to allow Sally to use high power mains appliances when off grid. She told me that she couldn’t do without her iron, hair dryer, hair straighteners and vacuum cleaner. We’ve used it briefly on previous cruises but three weeks into this trip and it hasn’t been used once. Sally is still washing her hair just as much but now with so much free time on her hands, she doesn’t feel the need to dry it almost instantly with a hair destroying, power hungry machine.

Sally’s also found a labour saving and very effective solution to the ironing problem. She folds everything neatly and stacks the clothing in the cupboards we had fitted in the bathroom when we had the gas water heater removed. Now gravity does the jobs which Sally used to dislike so much.

Big pink box – A robust pink plastic box sits next to the generator. I use it to hold several pairs of gloves, a couple of fleece hats, a wide brimmed leather hat I bought for £20 from the Crick Boat Show three years ago, and another made of kangaroo and crocodile skin bought online and shipped at great expense from Australia. I’m sure the pink box and the flamboyant leather hat speak volumes about me, but I’m not sure I like what they say.

Paint and equipment – I keep everything in the engine room I need to touch up the boat’s paintwork. There are tins of blue top coat and undercoat and cream for the cabin sides and roof, red Damboline for the engine bay, rear deck and the bow around the engine hatch and varnish for the internal woodwork plus various grades of sandpaper, a scraper and wire brush, paint brushes, rollers and cleaning fluid. I also have a Brushmate for storing paint covered brushes ready for instant use when I need them next.

Oil and grease – There’s a 5 litre bottle of engine and gear box oil, WD40 and 3 in 1 oil and two tubs of waterproof grease for the stern gland, a box of nitrile gloves for keeping my hands clean and a roll of blue paper for cleaning up spills.

Recovery Gear – I have a recovery magnet slightly smaller than a match box but capable of lifting 50lb and a 100m length of paracord which I tie it to. The para cord is handy for all kinds of different jobs including making a washing line between trees. For any items I want to get out of the water which are too heavy for the magnet, I have a grappling hook. The grappling hook is also handy if the boat gets stuck in the shallows. I can throw the grappling hook, attached to the para cord on to the opposite bank, then pull the boat laterally away from any obstruction.

Clothing – My bomb proof Guy Cotten smock top an bib and brace trousers are on coat hooks within reach, as are a couple of thick fleece jackets for colder weather, and two pairs of overalls for painting or working in the engine room

Mooring, steering and locking – I’ve fitted spring clips and sturdy hooks to the bulkhead between the engine room and our bedroom. There are three mooring pins, each capped with a high visibility yellow tennis ball, three mooring chains and two lump hammers plus three windlasses, an anti-vandal key and a BW facilities key and, last but not least a pair of different length tillers and two tiller pins.

I have a four feet long tiller which I use when I’m on my own at the back of the boat and a two feet long tiller for when I have guests. The longer tiller with more leverage helps turn my heavy rudder with less strain but the short tiller allows two guests to stand on the back of the boat with me without being swept off the boat.

Jump leads – If the starter battery fails, I can always start the engine by jumping from the domestic bank

Shore lines – I have two; one twenty metre line for plugging the boat into a shore supply and a five metre line to run from the bank-side suitcase generator to the boat.

Tools – Electric drill with screwdriver and drill bits, bolt croppers, wood saw, hacksaw, ratchet spanner set, socket set, adjustable spanners, a tape measure or two, mole grips and a pry bar, all in a tool box stored on a shelf.

Torches – I have two; one miner’s style head torch for working on the engine hands free, and another powerful hand held lamp for tunnels.

Life jackets – Two gas inflated jackets for river cruising. They’re similar to the ones worn by CRT employees.

I’m sure there are one or two items I’ve missed, but you can see how much I have stored in this small but weatherproof and secure space. You simply can’t store this amount of equipment securely and out of the elements with a cruiser or semi traditional stern narrowboat.

Boats will large open rear decks often have lockers where you can store some of your engine room essentials but they are rarely either weather proof or secure. The lockers are often damp and dirty places. Boat owners often have rear deck covers to protect the area from the elements. These covers don’t do a bad job of keeping the gear on the rear deck dry but the problem is what to do with everything stored there when the cover is removed ready for the boat to me used for cruising. Even if the equipment under the cover is kept dry, it’s certainly not secure, so you wouldn’t want to leave your valuables there when away from the boat.

A trad stern narrowboat has one other important advantage over those with cruiser or semi traditional sterns. If you plan to do any engine maintenance yourself, a trad stern boat allows you to work in a warm and weatherproof environment rather than standing in a damp and cold engine bay open to the elements.

Some live aboard boat owners decide on a cruiser stern boat because they have additional space for sitting outside. I don’t understand this argument at all. Both Sally and I enjoy sitting outside as much as anyone else but with miles and miles of verdant and mostly well maintained towpath, there’s plenty of room to accommodate the pair of us, our two camp chairs and our folding table.

We don’t have a huge number of guests so don’t need acres of outdoor standing space at the back of the boat, but we like a neat and tidy boat and appreciate the additional storage space the engine room gives us.

There you go. Mine is an entirely subjective point of view. I’m firmly in favour of traditional stern boats. The style suits Sally and I. Maybe it won’t suit you but at least now you are aware of the pros and cons.

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Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Chris Watts…

Chris Cole on his narrowboat discovery day

Chris Cole on his narrowboat discovery day

“I am still at the investigation and decision stage. I am actively looking for boats and a local marina that accepts liveaboards. I booked your discovery day for some hands on experience and to confirm whether or not a life afloat would be an option for me and boy is it!

I really enjoyed the day but can’t believe how fast it went by considering that most of the time we were only doing 1.5 to 2 miles an hour. Your instruction method is more like two mates having a chat rather than teacher/pupil which made the day flow really well and, I believe, made it much easier to absorb everything you were telling me. I probably picked up more knowledge in 10 hours with you than I would have done in 10 months surfing the internet. Overall the structure of the day is great and I would not want to add anything.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this day to anybody considering a life afloat or anybody thinking of buying a boat just for weekend/holiday use. You gain so much practical knowledge it is invaluable for anybody just starting out on boat life.”

 

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.

30th November 2014

Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.

23rd November 2014

London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.

2nd November 2014

Narrowboat CO2 emissions  – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.

26th October 2014

Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.

19th October 2014

Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.

12th October 2014

The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?

5th October 2014

I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.

28th September 2014

Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.

7th September 2014

Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

 

 

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